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This week in the Garden for April

This First Week of Mid Autumn in the Garden:

week one - week two - week three - week four

aprdir2012-12-230x153Middle Autumn arrives on the calendar. This first week is dominated by the strongly Waning Moon Cycle and Dark of the Moon (4 April) as the Moon continues to descend in Southern Hemisphere skies. Because of this Moon placement, these are actually the final days of Early Autumn which could seem quite summery in milder climates. Soon cooler conditions bringing more seasonal weather will become more likely in the more exposed colder climates.
 
Daylight Savings Time ends 3 April (3AM now becomes 2AM).
 
The Waning Moon appears in the early morning sky rising before the Sun each day. Once the ‘Dark of the Moon’ arrives 4 April, the Moon will rise shortly before the Sun. As the two celestial bodies sweep across the daytime sky, they move closer together. This combines their power, heralding increasing celestial/gravitational forces.
 
Consequently, liquid feeding and watering will be pulled upward mostly strongly with the rising sun and into the early afternoon hours. This will result in good rates of top growth, flowering and fruiting. Afternoon and evening watering will be pulled downward so will refresh a dry garden by the following morning.
 
A Busy Month in the Garden:
This is not the time to sit back and relax: it is a busy time in the garden! It is often a time to catch up with all the unfinished jobs started last month which need to be completed rather soon, especially in climates where the growing season is short. Mild to warm conditions gradually become cooler, a little wetter and weedier; almost Spring-like at times, creating ideal gardening conditions in almost all areas.

Changing colour tints and falling leaves begin to show in the Autumn foliage, especially as the month advances. Nature is reminding us to make the most of this lovely mild season while it lasts.
 
A Time for Root Development:
The Waning Moon cycle including the ‘Dark of the Moon’ phase stimulates strong root development that will help new plantings establish quickly, but may limit top growth.
 
This is a good time to sow seed of root crop vegetables, which often germinate rather quickly under these conditions. Also plant bulbs and any plant species with deep and spreading root systems or tap roots. Many newly planted brambles, canes; perennials; shrubs, trees and vines will appear to make little growth above the ground. But beneath the soil, their root systems will continue to advance in preparation of strong growth during the next growing cycle/season.
 
Vegetables that Benefit from Planting Now

Vegetables to plant or sow include such favourites as:
Beet, Carrot, Fennel, Leeks, Mustard, Onion, Parsnip, Peas, Potato, Radish, Shallot, Swede and Turnip. Also included here are things like Artichoke and Asparagus plus Rhubarb that depend on their extensive root systems to produce quality harvests. Many more tender varieties can be started within very sheltered and warm positions with frost-free winter weather or in the glasshouse.
 
Leafy Vegetables and all those that produce their crops above the ground can also be sown. If weather conditions appear favourable, they may also be transplanted without injury. But there will be better times ahead throughout the remainder of the month. When started now, they will tend to develop stronger root systems prior to putting on much extra top growth. This often proves to be helpful when Winter vegetables are subjected to cold and damp conditions where a strong root system helps promote and sustain healthy growth.
 
Leafy Vegetables to sow or transplant include:
Broad Beans, Broccoli, Cabbages, most Chinese Greens (Bok Choy, Chinese Cabbages, etc.), Cress, Endive, Herbs, Lettuce (often best under glass or in raised beds), Mustard, Parsley, Peas, Silverbeet and Spinach.
 
Flowers to Start Now:
In addition to sowing seed of root crops, it is also an acceptable time to sow and transplant a wide range of annual, biennial and perennial flowers plus aromatic herbs for the Winter and Spring garden and also some things for the next Summer garden and beyond. This includes many things transplanted from containers, sown as fresh seed or already established from cuttings and root divisions.
 
The best times to do this start next week through the remainder of the month. Early birds may wish to start now while the more cautious can start planning for what will be accomplished in the weeks to come.
 
Annual, Biennial and Perennial Flowers to plant or sow include such garden favourites as:
Alyssum, Aquilegia, Arctotis, Bellis Perennis (English Daisy), Candytuft, Cornflower, Canterbury Bells, Carnation, Coneflower, Delphinium, Dianthus, Feverfew (Tanacetum), Digitalis (Foxglove), Gaillardia, Godetia, Gypsophila, Hellebore (Winter Rose), Hollyhock (Althea), Honesty (Lunaria), Iceland Poppy, Larkspur, Limnanthes, Linaria, Livingstone Daisy, Lobelia, Lupin, Mignonette, Myosotis (Forget-Me-Not), Nemesia, Nemophila, Nigella, Painted Daisy, Pansy, Penstemon, Polyanthus, Poppies (most species), Primula, Scabiosa, Snapdragon, Statice, Stock, Sweet Pea, Viola, Virginia Stock, Wallflower and more locally.
 
Continue to transplant advanced container-grown seedlings of favourite garden flowers including:
Aquilegia (Granny Bonnets), Arctotis, Bellis perennis (English Daisy) , Canterbury Bells, Carnation, Cineraria, Cyclamen, Delphinium, Dianthus, Feverfew (Tanacetum), Forget-Me-Not (Myosotis),  Foxglove (Digitalis) , Gaillardia (Indian Blanket), Hollyhock (Althaea), Iceland Poppy (most Poppy species), Larkspur, Limnanthes Sea Foam/Meadow Foam), Livingstone Daisy, Lupin, Nemesia, Snapdragon Antirrhinum) , Strawflower (Helichrysum), Stock (Matthiola) , Sweet Pea (Lathyrus), Wallflower (Erysimum) and much more.
 
In mild climates with minimal Winter frosts also include:
Ageratum, Calceolaria, Cineraria, Cosmos, Cyclamen, Gazania, Impatiens, French Marigold (most other species in frost-free climates), Schizanthus, Zinnia and much more, especially in frost-free positions.
 
Wherever Winters remain nearly frost-free, dry and sunny, consider Petunias as an ideal bedding or container plant. Be aware that cold, wet weather will ruin their flowers. All these species can be successful grown in a bright and sunny glasshouse and sometimes in a very protected sun-facing veranda.
 
Because transplanting during the Full Waning Moon Cycle can be stressful for anything tender, stick to advanced seedlings or container plants where minimum root damage or disturbance will occur. If climatic conditions appear doubtful or extreme, delay planting until next week once the Waxing Moon Cycle returns.
 
In colder regions, protect all newly planted seedlings and young plants from frost/early freezing; also from predation by Slugs, Snails, Birds and Vermin. Almost all of these and many more species can be started from seed in the cold frame glasshouse, sheltered nursery or protected warm spots. In mild climates these could be planted out into the garden in two months’ time or can be held over in the cold frame or nursery for planting-out in Late Winter or Early Spring.
 
Amongst the wide variety of flowers that can still be sown from seed or advanced seedlings, the easiest to start include: Alyssum, Aquilegia, Arctotis, Calendula, Candytuft, Canterbury Bells, Carnations and Dianthus, Poppies, Nemophila, Nigella, Pansy, Snapdragon, Sweet William, Sweet Pea, Wallflower and many hardy Wildflower mixes just to mention a few favourites but there are scores more. 
 
Care and Common Sense:
This is a transitional time of the year and ‘Moon planting’ is not nearly as fool-proof as is common sense. When in doubt whether you should plant or shift something, let seasonal variations be your guide. As soon as heavy dew begins to persist on the lawn and days remain noticeably cooler, start planting: most hardy flower and vegetable seedling; container grown brambles and canes; shrubs, trees and vines. Make sure to water-in all plantings thoroughly immediately after planting and again as needed to keep them from wilting. Also watch carefully that newly planted specimens remain regularly well watered, if autumnal rains fail to do the job for you. Be sure to stake well against wintry storms ahead.
 
Ornamental Brambles and Canes, Shrubs, Trees, and Vines both deciduous and evergreen can be planted from containers. Be sure to water immediately upon planting to ensure that they get a good start and a prolonged period of root development. Generous mulch will maintain a more constant ground temperature and balanced moisture content. Stake anything tall and/or exposed to potentially extreme winds.
 
Because of the strong celestial extremes this week, avoid wrenching and transplanting anything where significant root damage and trauma will occur. This can prove so destructive as to kill the plant unless expert after-care can be provided. Postpone this sort of procedure until after the New Moon (7 April) and throughout the remainder of the month.
 
How to Use the Dark of the Moon to Best Advantage:
This week witnesses the ‘Dark of the Moon’ phase (4-7 April) leading up to the Mid Autumn New Moon (7 April). This is the true beginning of Mid Autumn conditions. Warm weather plantings will fade or finish and cool season species will become more prevalent and spring to life amongst the early autumnal tints to deciduous foliage.
 
This is an excellent time to clean and tidy the garden. Cultivate, weed and eliminate unwanted vegetation; mow lawns, feed and seed them, too; and feed all manner of Autumn, Winter and Spring flowering perennials, shrubs and trees to stimulate bud growth and strengthen them.

This week is also an excellent time to lay foundations and paving; set fence posts and build all manner of things for the garden and home. Organize tools and sharpen them in preparation for autumnal pruning.
 
Spring Flowering Bulbs:
This is a superb time to plant all Spring-flowering bulbs outdoors in garden beds where they are meant to flower in most climate zones. The exception is in the very warmest (sub) tropical zones where ground temperatures might still be well above 60F/15.6C. In those warmest climates, either maintain your bulbs in a cool, dry location or continue to refrigerate these bulbs a while longer until temperatures fall just a little more. Even hardier varieties like Anemone and Ranunculus often sprout more successfully when started once ground temperatures have dropped below 15C/59F.
 
The best natural test for when it is safe to start planting bulbs outdoors is wherever night air temperatures are dropping consistently below 12C/53.6F and/or the autumnal leaves are at least beginning to change colour, this is an ideal time to plant them.
 
Try at least a few special kinds of Spring-flowering bulbs in pots. The pots can either be placed in refrigeration or in a very cool, damp and shaded position outdoors, such as underneath the coolest shady side of an outbuilding, beneath shrubbery or a wall to simulate wintry conditions. Wherever freezing weather is severe, the pots can be watered-in thoroughly, buried in sand which is covered with mulch. Just leave them there at least until roots begin to appear outside the pot’s drainage holes and sprouts begin to show some movement. Then they can be brought into more light and moderately cool temperatures for flowering.
 
Crocus and Hyacinths planted in pots and refrigerated now can be forced into flower by Mid Winter. Paper White Narcissus and other ‘warm’ weather Mediterranean species can be forced into bloom even sooner as they need no prior refrigeration. But most Spring-flowering bulbs do require a significant period of cold conditions that simulate Winter prior to flowering. This can be accomplished by placing the dry bulbs in open boxes or mesh bags in the refrigerator. Never allow them to freeze!  Also they can be potted and placed in refrigeration which allows the development of a more substantial root system which produces better blooms.
 
Alternatively, pot the bulbs and then place these pots in a cool, dark, moist and shady place outdoors. Perhaps under shrubbery or on the shady side of a wall where they will remain very cool but never freeze. Once roots begin to show through the pots’ drainage holes, they can be brought into a bright but cool situation to grow on for early flowering.
 
In climates that experience Winter freezing pots of bulbs meant for early forcing are often buried in trenches covered over with sand or mulch. This way the bulbs can grow strong roots and shoots in a very natural environment. Then after the appropriate number of chilling weeks has past, the pots are unearthed and moved indoors for early flowering.
 
Crocus, Hyacinths and some Minor Bulbs (Anemone blanda, Chionodoxa, Galanthus, Muscari, Scilla, etc.) need as little as 8 to 10 weeks of cold before bringing into a bright, cool and sheltered spot for early flowering.  Most Narcissus ‘Daffodils’ need 8 to 12 weeks of cold and dark while Tulips can be successfully forced after 12 to 16 weeks. If these bulbs do not get the required length of cold they need, their buds may fail to develop properly (Tulip ‘blasting’); may flower on very short stems; or flowers may be deformed, short and stumpy.
 
Because Spring-flowering bulbs are dormant, they can be planted at almost any time of the month and over many months, provided that appropriate environmental conditions can be met. But traditionally, the Waning Moon Cycle (reducing moonlight with Moon appearing in the early morning sky) is the most ‘ideal’ time to plant a wide assortment of bulbs, corms, roots and tubers. This is when Professional Growers often start them to promote bigger bulb size, multiplication and strongest root development. This results in a healthy, robust and vigorous plant.
 
When grown for larger flowers rather than bulb quality and size, a Waxing Moon Cycle (increasing evening Moon light) is often considered to be the ‘ideal’ time for planting.
 
Mid and Late Autumn’s climate is particularly well-suited to this sort of bulb and root planting at almost any time of the month. This way the bulbs have time to establish a strong root system before the onset of Winter. This root system then supports much more dramatic and vigorous Spring growth and flowering. As Autumn advances, extreme weather events become more common in temperate and cooler climates. This means that planting soil is liable to remain moist, encouraging some growth and mostly root development.
 
Bulbs, Corms and Roots to plant now included:
Achimenes (tropical gardens or warm glasshouse only), Allium, Amaryllis belladonna, Calochortus (Mariposa Lily), Camassia, Chionodoxa (Glory of the Snow), Dipidax, Eranthis (Winter Aconite), Erythronium (Dog’s Tooth Violet), Eucharis Lily (warm climate or glasshouse), Freesia, Galanthus (Snow Drop),  Haemanthus (Blood Flower), Hyacinth, Hypoxis (Star Grass), Iris (Bearded, Dutch, Siberian and species), Leucojum (Snowflake), Lycoris (Spider Lily), Moraea,  Muscari (Grape Hyacinth), Narcissus, Nerine (last chance), Notholirion, Ornithogalum, Oxalis hybrids, Ranunculus, Scilla (Wood Hyacinth), Sparaxis, Tritonia, Tulip, Veltheimia, Zantedeschia and more locally.
 
Exercise a little more care when planting or transplanting anything delicate or tender during the ‘Dark of the Moon’ phase. Bulbs or anything dormant are easily planted or shifted. But celestial extremes at this time can dry-out new plantings of seedlings that are tender rather quickly if weather remains at all dry, sunny and/or windy. Under such conditions they can collapse quickly. Prepare to provide extra watering if regular rains fail. But conditions are often so ideal at this time of year that most anything that is well-planted and cared-for will meet with success.
 
‘Dark’ Pruning Secrets:
Pruning anytime during the Waning Moon cycle will tend to limit new growth. This is most pronounced during the “Dark of the Moon’ cycle (4-7 April) including the time around the New Moon (7-8 April). Anything pruned then will stay pruned for much longer and can sometimes result in more die-back than expected and can even kill the entire plant! This will be especially true of this month’s ‘Super’ New Moon.
 
Deciduous species whose growth has full matured and/or that are now losing their leaves in preparation for Winter are particularly vulnerable to damage when pruned severely at this time.  Sap is being drawn back from the plant tops into the root system in preparation for Winter. Any open wound or cut that is left unsealed invites air to enter the capillaries. As the sap is drawn back down out of the branches and into the roots, air is also drawn in resulting in extra die-back. This can be a silent killer. The true extent of any damage is usually not revealed until the following Spring.
 
One way around this problem is to not prune too closely; always leaving a little extra stump. This way if further die-back were too occur than was intended, there is still a ‘margin of error’ to protect internal growth that was not meant to be pruned away.  Be sure and cover all pruning wounds with a protective sealant such as tree paint! Also be aware that pruning any species that flowers in Late Autumn, Winter or Early Spring will remove at least some of the developing flower buds which will limit the next display. This will not damage the plants’ ability to re-grow; just its next flowering display.
 
This autumnal ‘Dark of the Moon’ die-back phenomenon can be used to great advantage when attempting to eliminate many types of brush and scrub or other noxious vegetation. By severely cutting back the plant and then covering the cut with kerosene and salt (an old Pioneer method) or an appropriate herbicide, the plant can often be eliminated entirely. 

Perennial Care:
Once perennials fade and finish flowering they can be cut back and mulched in preparation for Winter. Alternatively, most species can be cut back, dug, divided and replanted. This will allow them to become re-established before new growth resumes in the Spring. In cold climates with severe freezing this can wait until Spring. The main exceptions are perennial Phlox paniculata and Shasta Daisy that perform much better if divided in Late Winter of Early Spring.
 
In cold climates experiencing repeated ground freezing and thaw, be sure to surround each newly transplanted perennial with generous mulch. At this early stage, place a ring of mulch around each plant but leave its crown completely uncovered. After the first significant ground freeze sets in much later in the Autumn, then cover the plant and leave it that way until severe freezing finishes.
 
A Time to Clean and Tidy:
Remove fading displays. Anything diseased should be burned and the ashes recycled into the compost pile. If the plant material is healthy, it can be recycled into the compost heap. Alternatively, chop the faded plants into small sections and spread them as mulch around the garden. It is often really easy to chop them where they stand with hedge clippers a section at a time and let the pieces drop to be left where they lie. This creates green manure mulch that most closely returns to the land exactly what the plants removed from it to while they were growing.
 
The traditional approach is to clean, clear, cultivate and thoroughly weed all garden beds. The land should then be generously fed to replenish what has been removed with the growth of the previous crop. This might be with aged manure, mature compost and/or a good dusting with a high quality balanced General Plant Fertiliser. If the intention is to replant immediately for the Winter garden and Spring season, add extra Lime and drainage materials (sand, river gravel, small bark chips, etc.) into the top layer of the garden soil. This will help offset the effects of poorer drainage during extended periods of wet wintry weather.
 
Fruit Tree Care:
Continue to clean-up and tidy around all fruit trees, orchards and vineyards. Remove all decayed and spoilt fruit and mow/mulch fallen leaves. Wherever there has been disease or insect predation, make a special effort to eliminate all excessive debris that might harbour invasive problems that could spring to life early next season. Spray with a solution of powdered copper and spraying oil or a suitable (systemic) fungicide/insecticide to eliminate fungus and insect problems now rather than waiting until next Spring. But plan to spray again then, too! This is the best way to control difficult predative problems.
 
Brambles and cane fruits can also be cut back now or over the winter months. This applies to Summer-fruited varieties. Remove all the canes that have finished fruiting but leave all this season’s new canes. These will produce next year’s crop. Autumn fruited varieties are cut back after all fruit has been harvested.
 
In cold climates experiencing severe freezing, their crowns should be mulch as an insurance against the possibility of wintry frost damage.
 
Houseplants:
Continue moving tender plants indoors or into the glasshouse before temperatures fall too severely. Most house plants and (sub) tropical species prefer temperatures to remain above 12C/53.6F or more to maintain plant health and steady growth.
 
Others prefer conditions to be cooler yet still frost-free. Potted Chrysanthemum, Cineraria, Cyclamen, Cymbidium Orchid, forced Hyacinths and Narcissus that are beginning to shoot, Kalanchoe, Primula obconica, Zygocactus, Zygopetalum Orchid and other ornamental container plants should be kept in an airy, bright if not quite sunny spot with warm days but cool nights. The cool evenings are essential to their long-term performance.
 
They are all best suited to the cool glasshouse or unheated sun room and, of course, they perform brilliantly in mild and sunny subtropical climates with beautiful Autumn and Winter weather. Continue to feed and water them all regularly but lightly. Once conditions cool down, these plants metabolize and grow more slowly so need a little less feeding. Water lightly but regularly and remember that excessive watering can prove fatal, especially if plant roots remain wet on very cool nights.
 
Subtropicals:
Sub tropical species can still be planted successfully wherever ground remains moist and warm in sheltered microclimates that experience mild Winter weather with little significant freezing and/or only light frosts or none at all. Make sure the site is very free-draining and avoid much root disturbance at planting as the remaining growing season is short for tender species.
 
Weekly light liquid feeding combined with light watering will encourage quick and strong root development before the cooler weather arrives. Be sure to firmly stake any planting that might be lashed about by windy weather. Bougainvillea and other vines plus Palms are particularly vulnerable to root damage if their root ball twists about in the weeks after planting.
 
Avoid over-potting! Because there is only a short time to develop new roots before growth is halted by cooler nights, be very careful to not over-pot tender (sub) tropical species or plant them into sites that might remain overly wet in Winter. Cold wet soil surrounding exposed tender roots is a recipe for root rot and plant collapse.
 
If in doubt, especially in border-line climatic zones, simply shelter the subtropical plant in its container in a very airy, bright, sunny and mild to warm environment where it can rest in a semi-dormant position until warm Spring conditions return in a few months. Subtropical species usually survive wintry conditions much more successfully if they remain somewhat pot-bound rather than surrounded by cold wet soil. Most subtropical species make little if any growth during the cooler Winter months and usually survive well when allowed to dry out a little between watering.
 
Of greatest importance is to maintain warm soil around their roots. This can be accomplished by ‘double’ potting one pot within another with the space between them filled with granulated bark, coconut fibre, peat, pumice, sand or soil. Some Gardeners wrap plant pots and sometimes nearly the entire plant in hessian to protect them like a winter coat. It also helps to cluster a number of pots together which retains more heat amongst the pots and helps protect against potential chilling drafts or freezing of the container soil.
 
A Kaleidoscope of Leaves:
The changing Autumn leaf display now showing here and there, especially in cooler climates, warns the wise to not delay with the completion of all that can be accomplished today!  This is Nature’s way of providing a most colourful parting celebration in honour of the season now passing. But also a ‘red flag’ that signals that the mild season will soon end and to make the most of every remaining day to accomplish and prepare for less benevolent days.
 
Those wishing to plant a variety of species for autumnal colour tones should start making regular visits to selected local nurseries. See what is flowering now and watch as the various specimens which interest you begin to change leaf colour. This way you can select exactly the right tones for your special Autumn garden display.
 
Lawns:

This is an excellent time to start a new lawn. And it is also an excellent time to feed, seed and generally refurbish an existing lawn. If a really fine exhibition lawn is the plan, it is worth going to a bit of trouble to get the drainage perfect and the soil as loamy and rich as possible. A dusting of Gypsum will help improve poor drainage and help to loosen clay soil. Lightly forking over the lawn or going over it with an aerating spike roller will open up almost any soil. Existing lawns can be further improved with a thin layer of screened top soil well raked in to which blood and bone, lawn fertilizer and then seed is applied. Keep the entire area evenly moist especially if regular rains fail.
 
A mossy lawn can be improved with a dusting of Lime. This helps elevate soil pH. A soil pH of 6.5-7.2 is ideal. In very acid soils it is sometimes helpful to add a very fine layer of screened limestone rock into the soil surface or substitute Dolomite Lime. Mosses can also be controlled with dry or liquid applications of Iron Sulphate, Ferrous Ammonium Sulphate and Copper Sulphate. These ingredients are often used in weed and feed lawn applications. While sometimes effective, they may stain concrete or pathway surfaces as well as hands and clothing. They also do not address the issue of poor soil fertility which is usually at the root cause of excessive moss and weed problems.
 
Groundcovers:
Much like the lawn, this is an excellent time to start preparing ground and planting groundcovers. When grown as a permanent planting, make a good job of this so it will last for years. First till the soil thoroughly, removing all weeds. If possible let the cultivated earth rest and settle for a couple of weeks and then cultivate again to eliminate any emerging weed seedlings.
 
In potentially very weedy ground, repeat this several times to ‘sterilize’ the ground of weeds before attempting to plant perennial groundcovers. Also feed generously before planting and add organic matter, especially compost to permanently enrich the soil. If soil is very heavy, whiten it with Gypsum Lime and water this in lightly before planting to help open the land for better drainage. Once planted, keep beds moist if weather remains dry until any signs of wilting have stopped. Watch carefully for the first year, just to be sure that the groundcovers have rooted deeply enough to sustain themselves over the long-term.
 
Autumn Flower Beds:
Autumn flower gardens will respond to continuous dead-heading combined with a light cut-back and trim as stems begin to fade or finish. A comprehensive foliage feeding and spray can do wonders to prolong or rejuvenate an Autumn floral display. There are several ways to do this. Organic Gardeners can apply soapy water mixed into Copper powder plus Epsom salts. A complete balanced systematic liquid foliar fertiliser is ideal for quick results. Add to this liquid fertiliser a good quality systemic fungicide/insecticide. Liquid feeding into the plants’ roots is also a successful approach to stimulate additional growth and flowering. This will both feed and protect the plants to enhance late flowering and prevent encroachment from disease and insect predation to provide the longest possible flowering and harvest season.
 
Keep garden beds clean and tidy removing fading plants, debris, and young weeds that have not yet seeded to the compost pile. Remain alert to stress-related problems and quickly remove and burn anything decayed, diseased, dying, half-eaten or rotting before it can affect and damage what remains. This also helps prevent problems from next year’s garden before they spread over the Winter ahead.
 


This Second Week of Mid Autumn in the Garden:

week one - week two - week three - week four

aprdir2012-13-230x153The lunar beginning of Mid Autumn starts with the descending New Moon 7 April. This is a powerful ‘super’ New Moon with the second closest lunar perigee (closest approach to the Earth) for the year happening on the 8th. Celestial forces will be strong and tidal extremes will increase starting around the 5th, with greatest intensity starting around the 7th and diminishing by the 12th.  

This New Moon occurs in (sidereal) Pisces which can enhance damp, humid or wet weather. The ‘super’ Moon could result in weather extremes but their focus is liable to push northward over equatorial regions of the Atlantic into Africa and spreading north and eastward into Europe and other parts of the Northern Hemisphere.
 
That should allow warmer regions of New Zealand to continue to bask in the unusually humid subtropical high pressure dome dominating the South Pacific with relatively settled weather. Although exposed southern latitudes could possibly experience a more westerly or south westerly flow which often brings unsettled conditions with some cooling down and possibly even the first frost in the very coldest corners, but this is much more likely in the weeks ahead.
 
Big Planting Time Begins!
The Crescent Moon seen in the evening sky means the Mid Autumn Moon is ‘waxing’ or growing brighter and larger each evening. This time of increasing moonlight encourages top-growth so is a very good time to plant and sow flowering plants and vegetable crops (especially leafy sorts) that produce their crops above the ground. This Waxing Moon Cycle grows in intensity until the Full ‘Harvest’ Moon 22 April.
 
Vegetables:
Leafy Vegetables and all those that produce their crops above the ground can be planted and sown. If weather conditions appear favourable, their seedlings may also be transplanted without injury. What can be planted depends upon the climate. In coldest climates only the very hardiest things would be planted outdoors. But much could be started in a cold frame. In the mildest climates a broad list of vegetables can be easily started outdoors now. The last of the warm weather vegetables could be started in a glasshouse in all climate zones.
 
Leafy Vegetables to sow or transplant include:
Broad Beans, Broccoli, Cabbages, most Chinese Greens (Bok Choy, Chinese Cabbages, etc.), Cress, Endive, Fennel and hardy Herbs, Lettuce (often best under glass or in raised beds), Mustard, Parsley, Peas, Rhubarb, Silverbeet, Spinach and more locally. Root crops vegetable seed and plants with tap roots usually perform best when sown near the Full Moon (22 April) and afterward during the Waning Moon Cycle.
 
Flowers:
This transitional autumnal time is excellent for planting and sowing a broad range of Annual, Biennial and Perennial flowering plants. For ‘instant’ colour, plant advanced seedlings or colour pots already in bloom or bud. Most of these will continue flowering throughout the Autumn and Winter months into next Spring.
 
Smaller seedlings are cheaper and should transplant easily now. Depending on what is transplanted, these often take 4 weeks or longer before they produce their first flowers.
 
Seed sown now offers the broadest options. It is remarkably cheaper. A single packet of seeds can sometimes produce hundreds of plants for little more than the cost of a few ‘instant’ colour pots. Often a single container-grown perennial will cost more than a packet of their seeds that can potentially produce a hundred or more perennials that could flower for years. It is by far the best way wherever larger flower beds are desired over a big acreage. Seed also provides the greatest diversity of colour and form. Plus many of the more desirable and unusual species are almost never offered as colour pots or seedlings by most nurseries. In order to have these in your garden you must grow them yourself. The trade-off is that seed sowing takes dedicated effort, organization and reliability to produce a quality result. Plus sowing from seed takes much longer to flower: often 10 weeks or more.
 
Easiest Flowers to Sow from Seed:
Amongst the wide variety of flowers that can still be sown from seed or advanced seedlings, the easiest to start include: Alyssum, Aquilegia, Arctotis, Calendula, Candytuft, Canterbury Bells, Carnations and Dianthus, Poppies Pansy, Snapdragon, Sweet William, Sweet Pea, Wallflower and many hardy Wildflower mixes just to mention a few favourites but there are scores more. 
 
Annual, Biennial and Perennial Flowers:
In addition to the most easily sown varieties are many more garden favourites including: Ageratum, Althea (Hollyhock), Ammi majus (Bishops Flower), Bellis Perennis (English Daisy), Calceolaria, Calliopsis, Chrysanthemum, Clarkia, Cornflower, Coneflower, Cosmos, Delphinium, Echinacea (Purple Cone Flower), Feverfew (Tanacetum), Digitalis (Foxglove), Gaillardia, Gloxinia, Godetia, Gypsophila, Hollyhock (Althea), Hellebore (Winter Rose), Honesty (Lunaria), Hunnemania, Iceland Poppy, Larkspur, Limnanthes (Sea Foam), Linaria, Livingstone Daisy, Lobelia, Lupin, Mignonette, Myosotis (Forget-Me-Not), Nemesia, Nemophila, Nigella, Painted Daisy, Penstemon, Phacelia, Phlox, Polyanthus, Poppies (most species), Primula, Rudbeckia, Salpiglossis, Scabiosa, Statice, Strawflower, Stock, Sweet Pea hybrids, Viola, Virginia Stock, Viscaria, Wallflower and more locally.
 
Sometimes these plants are available as advanced container-grown seedlings or colour pots. This is an ideal time to transplant them into their permanent garden positions or pot them on for Winter colour in the conservatory, glasshouse or sunroom.

In mild climates with minimal Winter frosts and in the glasshouse try:
Ageratum, Begonias (fibrous rooted), Calceolaria, Cineraria, Cosmos, Cyclamen, Gazania, Impatiens, French Marigold (most other species in frost-free climates), Pelargonium (Geranium),  Schizanthus, Zinnia and much more, especially in frost-free positions. Wherever Winters remain nearly frost-free, dry and sunny, consider Petunias as an ideal bedding or container plant. Be aware that cold, wet weather will ruin their flowers. All these species can be successful grown in a bright and sunny glasshouse and sometimes in a very protected sun-facing veranda.
 
Perennials to start now include:
Acanthus, Althea (Hollyhock), Alstroemaria, Chrysanthemum, Convallaria (Lily-of-the Valley), Dicentra (Bleeding Heart), Gazania, Gerbera, Geum, Helleborus (Winter Rose), Incarvillea (Pride of China), Meconopsis (Himalayan Blue Poppy), Mertensia (Virginia Blue Bell), Oriental Poppies, Polyanthus, Primula, Pulmonaria (Lungwort), Pyrethrum (Painted Daisy), Sedums and Succulents (most species/varieties), Tritoma/Kniphofia (Red Hot Poker), Trollis (Globe Flower) and many more locally. While perennial Phlox and Shasta Daisy can be successfully transplanted now, especially in larger clumps, these two perennials respond better to Late Winter/Early Spring transplanting.
 
Groundcovers, Shrubs, Trees, Vines:
Wherever soil is moist and workable and regular watering can be assured if rains were to fail, now is the time to start planting from containers a very wide range of shrubs, trees, vines and most types of hardy groundcovers.
 
In milder climates where ground freezing is not an issue, this can continue all Autumn and Winter plus well into the Spring.
 
In colder climates, it is important to get started before cold and freezing weather end the growing season.
 
Because these are most likely long-term/permanent plantings, go to extra trouble to prepare the soil well before planting. Dig broad holes and make sure they are deep enough to encourage roots to penetrate down into the soil. Add well aged compost to the planting hole and mix this into the surrounding soil. Lighten clay and heavy soils by adding powdered Gypsum. Round river sand and/or peat can also be added to improve the soil’s tilth.
 
It is generally best to not add chemical fertilizers into the planting hole at the time of planting. At the most perhaps one handful into a planting hole 1 metre in diameter. Dig this into the surrounding soil. Alternatively, add a little more fertilizer but water it in thoroughly and let the hole stand empty for at last a week before planting. The reason for this is to avoid the possibility of caustic chemical fertilizers coming into contact with emerging tender plant roots. This could burn them and set the plant back or even kill it!
 
Sasanqua Camellias first begin to flower as true Autumn weather arrives. There are a few varieties that start flowering quite early; others continue into Late Winter and Early Spring. Now is a great time to visit your local nursery just as they begin to bloom to select the perfect variety with just the right floral colour and shape for your needs. Sasanquas are extremely easy to plant and establish even while in flower and are hardy in climates that experience only moderate freezing or less.  They perform best with plenty of sunshine but will tolerate partial shading. In borderline climates that experience persistent light freezing they are best planted near protective walls or sheltering foundations. Sasanqua Camellia flowers bloom en masse and carry a distinctive and pleasant honey fragrance that makes them a valuable asset for the Autumn and Winter garden.
 
It is possible to successfully plant most all other species of Camellia, Daphne, Luculia, Osmanthus, and Rhododendron as well as Azaleas and a wide variety of other containerized shrubs, trees and vines, most species native to Australia, the Mediterranean, New Zealand, South Africa and western North America. Both broad leafed evergreen and deciduous species can be started from container-grown stock.
 
Deciduous species that are meant to be wrenched and transplanted can be partially lifted by first digging straight down using a sharp-edged shovel all around the plants’ circumference. This will establish the plants’ root ball. Over the coming weeks, fertilize and water within the circumference of the root ball to encourage new root development. Once the plant has lost all its foliage, it can be lifted and shifted into its new position.
 
Bulbs:
Dormant bulbs can be planted and transplanted all month. When planted during the Waxing Moon Cycle, this is traditionally considered to encourage larger blooms but at the expense of future bulb production. Now would be a good time to start flats of bulbs that are meant to be forced for Florist Trade flowers. Pots for forced Winter flowers could also be started now. If the intension is to create a sweeping bank or meadow of Spring Daffodils that will naturalize and spread in successive years, wait to plant until the Full Moon onward into the Waning Moon Cycle.
 
For more information of forcing and growing Spring-flowering bulbs see the First Week in the Mid Autumn Garden.
 
Houseplants and Subtropical Species:
Cymbidium Orchids and all other frost-tender (sub) tropical species need be moved into protected, sunny, warm spots without delay. All cool-season flower species should now be fertilized with a formula high in Phosphorous and Potassium to stimulate the development of flower buds. Make sure that any plant that has been outdoors for the Summer is examined and comprehensively sprayed to eliminate any threat of disease or insect predation entering the sheltered indoor environment.
 
Before bringing them inside, it is often a good idea to choose a warm, still and sunny day and give them a vigorous hosing outdoors just prior to applying a systemic spray combined with a liquid fertilizer. Let the plants dry out. Then bring them indoors into their new winter home.
 
Make sure that all such plants are placed in a bright, sheltered and mild to warm environment out of any chilling drafts. Watch them very carefully in the weeks ahead for any sign of disease or predation. Spray again immediately at the first sign of any such threat. It is often handy to leave a spray bottle near the plants to deal with any problem immediately. Because the plants are vulnerable when their environment is changed, their weakened state can allow any problem to spread quickly to affect the rest. This can prove disastrous if not stopped very quickly!
 
Lawns:
Wherever conditions remain mild and Winter climates are moderate with only light frosts or occasional minor freezes, continue to sow seed for new lawns and to refurbish existing lawns. A special lawn food is best for feeding. But many Gardeners elect to use Sulphate of Ammonia which will burn off broad-leaf weeds as it feeds the lawn! Don’t use anything this caustic on tender young grasses.
 
Wherever possible avoid the use of herbicides on the lawn. While they may eliminate broad-leafed weeds at first, they also mildly toxify the earth. Many also have a residual potential. Chemical concentrations can soon build up to make the ground more difficult to plant or sow successfully. This toxicity can kill soil bacteria and worm-life that will eventually result in compacted and sour soil. With repeated rainfall, this toxicity can leach through or run-off into garden beds or enter the aquifer and contaminate water supplies. Be aware that all herbicides carry warning labels detailing their toxic potential. Such toxins remaining on the lawn can also transfer onto children and their toys, the Gardeners’ shoes or beloved pets and ultimately cause toxic reactions in them as well.
 
As a general rule, whenever possible, remain biodynamic and/or organic. Over time this results in a much healthier environment with better results for the garden, lawn and yourself.
 


This Third Week in the Mid Autumn Garden:

week one - week two - week three - week four

aprdir2012-01-230x153This could be a good planting week for many Gardeners. This week features the Full Waxing Moon Cycle that strengthens throughout the week leading up to the Full Moon (22 April).  This time of rapidly increasing moonlight produces rapid top growth in plants and increased flowering.  

Most things planted on a Full Waxing Moon Cycle will ‘hit the ground running’ and usually rocket away very quickly; often beginning to flower and fruit in a very short period of time. This often suits the quick establishment of a Late Autumn and Winter garden display. It is also an ideal time to plant a landscape for the longer term.
 
Harvest Time:
As the Moon brightens, it passes in front of (sidereal) Cancer (14-15th), Leo (15-18th) and Virgo (19-22 April). Cancer is a ‘water’ sign so ideal time to harvest for juice and crisp, succulent vegetables. Leo is good for harvesting warm season crops and Virgo is much the same as well as for harvesting fields of grain and gathering of seed.
 
Throughout the week, water retention will increase. This makes for the best time to harvest vegetables that are crisp, juicy fruits and anything meant for immediate use plus for jam, juices and wines or preserves.
 
Planting Time: Don’t Miss this!
Plant/sow a wide variety of flowering Annuals, Biennials, and Perennials; all hardy Herbs; groundcovers; fruiting and ornamental brambles and canes, shrubs, trees and vines, plus a wide variety of field crops, grains and Vegetables.
 
Cancer is a brilliant ‘growth’ sign perfect for planting and sowing. Being a water sign interacting with a Full Waxing Moon, extra water retention will benefit both planting and sowing. This is the ideal time to plant or sow all sorts of luminous and/or ‘round’ things: cabbages and Lettuces; Swedes and Turnips; Honesty (Lunaria) and Poppies; Camellias and Roses; most night-blooming and white flowers.
 
Leo and Virgo are both ‘barren’ signs, so it is important to remain alert to any potential extreme or inclement environmental situations that could damage tender plantings. But in this auspicious placement, these could be good times to plant and sow a variety of flowers, fruits and vegetables.
 
Leo days (15-18 April) will favour the planting and sowing of bright, colourful flowers:
Arctotis, Calendula, Carnation, Chamomile, Chrysanthemums, Dianthus; trees like Ash, Liquid Amber and any with brightly coloured foliage. It is also an excellent time to sow all vegetables that prefer sunny and warm aspects plus seed of all forms of field grains, Broad Beans, Peas as well as lawns.
 
Virgo days (19-22 April) can be especially good for sowing seed of most hardy herbs, especially anything savoury. Most hardy shrubs and trees respond well when planted now. This will be a brilliant time to sow seed of all root crops and anything with an extensive root system or tap root.  Plant all manner of bulbs, corms, roots and tubers. Now is one of the very best times to design and plant Spring-flowering bulbs for a special display or forcing their flowers in containers. It is a perfect time to plant fields of things like Daffodils or Tulips; all hardy grain crops; (re)seed golf courses and lawns; plus establish wildflower borders and meadows.
 
These could potentially be amongst the finest planting days this Autumn so make the most of this bright and golden opportunity.
 
Exhibition Flowers and Root Crops:
This very special transitional time in the growing season and within the Mid Autumn Moon Cycle is one of those moments of near-perfect timing for potentially producing exhibition quality results.
 
The time around the Full Moon is one of high light and high water retention which promotes quick seed germination and strong top growth. Immediately after the Full Moon starts the Waning Moon Cycle which continues to strengthen until the New Moon. This promotes strong root development. So when seeds or seedlings are planted leading up to the Full Moon, they gain both the benefits of top growth and root development. This is possibly best demonstrated when growing exhibition Beets, Carrots and Parsnips. But it also affects almost everything with a tap root or an extensive root system which includes a wide variety of garden flowers as well as many bulbs, corms, roots and tubers.
 
Assuming appropriate (after) care and handling, and with benevolent weather, planting seedlings and sowing seed just prior to the Full Moon often produces exhibition flowers and vegetables. Almost any time this week will do, so give it a try.
 
Flowers:
There is still time to transplant a wide range of annual, biennial and perennial flowers for the Late Autumn, Winter, Spring and even Early Summer garden and beyond. This includes many things transplanted from containers, sown as fresh seed or established from cuttings and root divisions.
 
Obviously, the best and fastest result will come from transplanting advanced seedlings and ‘instant’ colour pots that will give an immediate impact. Seed can also be sown for a variety of annual, biennial and perennial plants. But with the remaining number of bright and mild days ahead becoming shorter, choose to sow in a very sheltered position like a protected cold frame, heated glasshouse, or very sheltered and warm nursery environment. Next best position would be a very sunny wall up against a building on a paved surface and sheltered from drafts and night chilling. This will provide greatest reflected light and retain so much heat that growth rates could rival those of summertime.
 
Continue to transplant seedlings of favourite garden flowers including:
Aquilegia (Granny Bonnets), Arctotis, Bellis perennis (English Daisy) , Canterbury Bells, Carnation, Cineraria, Cyclamen, Delphinium, Dianthus, Feverfew (Tanacetum), Forget-Me-Not (Myosotis),  Foxglove (Digitalis) , Gaillardia (Indian Blanket), Hellebore (Winter Rose), Hollyhock (Althaea), Iceland Poppy (most Poppy species), Larkspur, Limnanthes Sea Foam/Meadow Foam), Livingstone Daisy, Lupin, Nemesia, Polyanthus and Primula species, Snapdragon Antirrhinum) , Strawflower (Helichrysum), Stock (Matthiola) , Sweet Pea (Lathyrus), Wallflower (Erysimum) and much more.
 
Vegetables:
This is one of those special times when both vegetables that produce their crops above the ground and root crops can be planted or sown in the same week.
 
Protect all newly planted seedlings and young plants from night chilling and possibly even early frost in exposed districts. Cloches and temporary plastic shelters are often worth the trouble as the added heating they produce will rapidly increase growth rates. This is sometimes important when starting crops this late in the season. If plants become well established and reach a productive state before colder weather arrives, this can produce a more prolonged harvest period through the wintry times ahead and much earlier Spring harvests.
 
All of these and many more species can be started from seed in the glasshouse, sheltered nursery or protected warm spots. In mild climates these could be planted out into the garden in two months’ time or can be held over in the cold frame or nursery for planting-out in Late Winter or Early Spring.
 
Vegetables to Plant or Sow Now

Plant Vegetable Winter “greens” like:
Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, Cabbages (Chinese and traditional varieties), Cauliflower, Cress, Endive, Lettuces (best under glass unless mild climates), Mustard, New Zealand Spinach (Tetragonia) (warm positions only), Parsley, Peas, Silver beet, Spinach; also Onions (especially Spring Onions), Swedes, Turnips; plus Broad Beans. Also start: Beet Root, Carrots, Chicory, Dwarf Beans (warm spots), Kohlrabi, Leeks, Parsnip, Radish, Salsify, Shallot (cool climates) and much more.
 
Strawberries:
In milder areas wherever Winter is not overly severe start or continue planting Strawberries. Runners and rooted plants both bare-root and from containers can be planted all Winter in warmer regions.
 
Strawberries perform best in slightly acidic soil, which is what many New Zealand Gardeners have. Soil needs to be enriched, freely draining but retentive of moisture. They require full sunshine for the best and sweetest fruit. While they will grow prolifically in partial shade, they become lushly vegetative at the expense of the berries, which are often less flavourful or even tart, and often rot. However, on a bank in strong partial sunshine or very light shade, they can make an excellent groundcover and still produce a few welcome fruits.
 
Container Plants:
Wherever soil is workable and the weather is benevolent, now is an excellent time to plant a very wide variety of container-grown plants. Plant hardy ornamental brambles and canes, shrubs, trees, and vines from containers. Make sure everything is thoroughly watered immediately upon planting. Anything needing a prolonged period of root development prior to the onset of new growth can be planted most successfully now. 
 
In very cold climates with a short growing season, be sure that such plantings are well mulched against Winter frost heaving. But in all positions, generous mulch will maintain a more constant ground temperature and balanced moisture content. Wherever severe freezing is likely, add an additional layer of ‘fluffy’ protective mulch later once the ground has begun to freeze. This maintains a cool, constant soil temperature and protects roots and lower stems from frost desiccation.
 
Anything tall and/or exposed to potentially extreme winds should be well secured to strong staking from the start. All plantings exposed to drying winds will also benefit from some sort of protective sheltering such as windbreak, evergreen boughs, etc.
 
Shrub and Tree Planting Time

Now and in the month or two ahead is an excellent time to plant almost all varieties of:
Azalea, Boronia, Camellias, Daphne, Diosma, Luculia, Osmanthus, Pieris, Rhododendron, Sarcococca, Thryptomene and Vireya in milder climates plus many other Broad-leafed Evergreens, Conifers and a wide variety of hardy deciduous ornamental brambles and canes, shrubs, trees and vines. This includes such favourites as Abelia, Hydrangea; Lavender, Rosemary and many other woody Herbs plus many native plants from Australia, The Mediterranean, New Zealand, South Africa and the cooler regions of South America, plus also hedges.
 
Deciduous species of most sorts can easily be planted from containers before they lose their leaves provided they can be kept continually most.
 
In the coolest climates, these are the earliest days to start to shift and plant bare-root deciduous shrubs, trees and vines. This is best accomplished once foliage has dropped.
 
This is also an excellent time for planting Conifers and most Broad-leafed Evergreens where soil remains cool and moist.  Hedging species of all sorts can be started now, too.
 
In mild climates where Winter is gentle and without significant heavy freezing also plant Citrus and evergreen fruiting species like Feijoa and Guava.
 
Feeding Shrubs and Trees:
Almost all ornamental species of shrubs and trees, especially broad-leafed evergreens, conifers, Late Autumn, Winter and Early Spring flowering species and most fruiting species can be fed now to enhance later flowering. Avoid fertilisers high in Nitrogen that could generate late-season leafy growth that might get damaged by wintry conditions ahead. Use a good quality balanced general plant food or one high in Phosphorous to induce better bud growth and flower quality and especially Potassium (Potash) to strengthen root development. Select a fertilizer with a ratio like: 20-20-20 or 5-54-10 or 10-20-40, etc.
 
Compost can be used as both fertilizer and mulch. When using a chemical fertilizer, apply lightly over pre-moistened earth. ‘Little and often’ is much more beneficial than one enormous application that could result in feeder root burn. When it is necessary to apply more fertilizer in one application, consider adding one to two cups of chemical fertilizer mixed thoroughly into one bucket of compost or garden soil. Spread this generously over moist earth as a fertile mulch around all plantings and let Nature do the rest.
 
Plants from Cuttings:
Deciduous Shrubs and Trees, Conifers, Evergreen Shrubs and Trees, Roses and many Vines can be started now as cuttings placed in a mix of perlite, pumice, sand, vermiculite and/or peat or sterilised soil. Equal parts peat and sand is often the easiest mix. Cuttings can be dipped in hormone gel or powder, which often enhances early root development. Partially fill an appropriate container, propagation bed or seedling flat with the propagating mix. Place (rather than push) each cutting into holes made with a dibble into the mix. Then fill in more propagating soil around them. Water in lightly and then put them in a bright (but not hotly sunny!)  mild to warm glasshouse or sheltered cold frame or protected nursery environment with good air flow but high humidity and leave them there for the Winter.
 
Some Gardeners place one or more pots within a plastic bag drawn up and over the cuttings. This creates a mini-greenhouse with higher humidity that often promotes growth and root development. Alternatively, Roses and many deciduous shrub and tree cuttings can be plunged directly into the ground and covered with an inverted glass jar which also creates a mini-glasshouse. If successful, these cuttings will sprout in Spring. Alternatively, the ones started in containers or seedling flats, etc. should be ready to transplant into small containers by the Spring.
 
Autumnal Foliage Gardens:
Soon Late Autumn weather will bring out the best foliage tints. In colder regions with a shorter growing season autumnal colour is already starting to glow. Take time to visit parks, (botanical) gardens, local nurseries and the countryside to celebrate these magic moments.
 
Gardeners especially in cooler and colder climates have the opportunity to create a special autumnal foliage garden. In these climates many treasured garden specimens are deciduous: they lose their leaves and go dormant throughout the long Winter ahead.
 
Before their leaves drop, their green chlorophyll and mineral sugars drain back into their root systems, leaving behind the classic autumnal coloured foliage. Colour displays vary from year to year. While this is somewhat dependent on climate and seasonal weather conditions, it is also affected by the mineral balance in the surrounding soil and also the unique characteristics of each plant, shrub, tree and vine.
 
Now is the time to become observant of these unique variations. Identify specimens that have exactly the colour tones suitable for your garden. Visit local nurseries now while these plants are in their autumnal glory and select the ‘right’ ones for your situation. With few exceptions, the best time to plant deciduous specimens is during their dormant period which is fast approaching now. So this makes an ideal time to plan and plant a special autumnal foliage garden.
 
Love those Leaves!
Great piles of Autumn leaves make the most mineral rich compost or protective Winter mulch. When composted or mulched and shredded with a lawn mower or mulching machine/ leaf shredder, the full benefit of all the fibre and minerals is retained and returned to the soil where it can be of greatest benefit.
 
When burnt, much of this mineral richness is lost, going up in smoke.

But even then the remaining ashes are rich in Potash:
a favourite element of Camellias, Conifers, many Broad-Leaf Evergreens, many Vegetable crops, flowering plants and most bulbs.
 
Be very cautious spreading fresh ashes directly around the garden, they can be very caustic so just a little goes a long way! Sprinkle lightly around anything living! Most organic ashes have a high pH which can burn tender plant material and root systems when applied fresh, especially if they drift up against a plant’s stem. Acid pH plants can be particularly damaged when ashes are fresh. One application will transform blue Hydrangeas to mauve or pink.
 
Do not add treated timber wood ashes to the garden and avoid burning such timber if at all possible. Treated timber ashes contain dangerous toxins so should be avoided until very well leached.
 
The safest way to use wood ashes is to return the ashes to the compost pile. Alternatively place them in their own special heap.  Once they have been thoroughly watered, allow them to break down and leach for a while before returning them to the land. Often a scoop of composted ashes mixed into one bucket of standard compost makes an ideal potassium-enriching fertilizer for garden beds.
 
Whenever a garden bed is to remain fallow over the Winter months, that is an excellent time to apply wood ashes directly over the roughened land. In this situation the ashes can be applied directly without prior composting. But only apply a dusting at any one time so as not to caustically burn worms in the soil.
 
Pruning:
This week is unusually well suited to pruning. Many brambles and canes, conifers, broad-leafed evergreens, espaliers and topiaries, hedges, shrubs, trees plus vines can be lightly shaped and trimmed now to keep them shapely and tidy. This will tend to encourage a little more bushy and compact new growth. Plus it will help fill in and soften the pruning before the onset of Winter. But time remaining in the season is short so refrain from cutting back too heavily or the shrub will remain looking butchered all Winter.
 
Time to Clear Land:
Mid and Late Autumn are excellent times to clear land, cut down, and remove from the land, brambles, brush, scrub, invasive or unwanted shrubs, trees, vines and a variety of noxious weeds. Plan ahead for next month!
 
The cut back on larger sections could start now. Clear things back to a reasonable stump level now. In about a week’s time, cut back much harder at the time when herbicide or kerosene + salt will be added over each fresh cut.
 
The very best times to kill unwanted vegetation are those days in the ‘Dark of the Moon’ cycle in the last week of the Waning Moon Cycle (starts 30 April-7May) before the Late Autumn New Moon (7 May).
 
Being late in the season plant sap, especially in deciduous and Winter-dormant species is returning into the root system in preparation for the Winter season ahead. Cutting those plants back now will tend to draw air into the open cuts and pull it down into the stems; causing greater die-back. Cutting again in a week’s time will enhance this die-back. To further encourage the die-back, cover fresh cuts in (damp) salt and immediately pour a small amount of kerosene, mineral turpentine or herbicide over the salt. This will create a toxic mixture that will also be drawn into the cut. Much of the world’s vegetation was permanently cleared by earlier generations of Pioneers using this simple secret.
 
Prepare for Cooler Times Ahead:
Prepare to protect tender ornamental plants from frost and freezing. El Nino has prolonged the mild season for many Gardeners. But if frost or colder night temperatures have not arrived yet, they soon will in all but the warmer regions. Make sure that anything tender to cold or freezing is now in its protected Winter home. In very cold climates where the ground often freezes, mulch plants only lightly now, and add additional protective mulching once the soil is thoroughly cold and frozen
 
Of special importance is to insure that anything tender and vulnerable to damage by freezing or frost, excessive chill, wet and wind is moved into shelter immediately. This gives them the opportunity to acclimatize gradually and thus avoid the shock of a sudden move followed by wintry chill if the job were left until the last possible moment.

Winter and Spring-flowering Orchids like:
Cattleya, Dendrobium, Laelia, Cymbidium, Paphilopedilum, Phaleonopsis, Odontoglossum, Oncidium and many others should be in their Winter positions now. They need sunny mild days, cool nights and no chilling drafts or frosts. Continue feeding with an Orchid fertiliser suitable to promote bud development and flowering; but reduce watering especially on tropical varieties.
 
Disease and Pests:
Now that conditions are damper, darker, humid and more often wet, guard most stringently against predation by Caterpillars and especially Slugs and Snails. These pests can travel for quite a distance and arise very quickly and unexpectedly for the unprepared. In the case of Orchids and also many emerging bulb shoots, their damage can be profound as a single mouthful disfigures or eliminates exposed bud petals which ruins an entire year(s) of effort. Lay baits before this happens and check frequently all suspected haunts to eliminate them before they eliminate your treasured flowers and also Vegetable crops!
 
Mildew, mould and rots often set in whenever weather becomes cloudy, damp or excessively wet and still. Spraying with an appropriate fungicide or organic copper powder can be very helpful to control these problems. Opening the garden up to increased air circulation also helps to prevent this sort of damage.
 
But these problems are often an inevitable part of the transition to more wintry times ahead. Often it is best to admit defeat and send this decaying material to the compost heap where it can be recycled to be used again in brighter, sunnier seasons ahead.
 
The times just ahead usher in the final month of Autumn. This will also be the last opportunity to get everything done before the onset of Winter. Those unaccustomed to making lists and experiencing the delight of crossing off completed jobs might consider taking up the practice now and following through while there is still time.
 


This Fourth Week in the Mid Autumn Garden:

week one - week two - week three - week four

aprdir2012-03-230x153The classic ‘Harvest’ Full Moon (5PM NZST, 22 April) in the finest harvest sign (sidereal) Virgo starts the week. This represents the lunar peak of Mid Autumn and the beginning of the final week of calendar Mid Autumn. This Harvest Moon should be an imposing sight as it rises exactly full, golden and round in the northeast sky shortly after 5PM. The remainder of the month is dominated by the Waning Moon Cycle. 

As the Moon ascends into Southern Hemisphere skies it is liable to push a flush of humid, warm air ahead of it bringing spring-like or Indian Summer days.  Starting 25-27 April onward, the Moon begins to turn and descend northward. Its gravitational pull is liable to drag up colder air from Antarctic regions that will wash up against the tropical flow, resulting in extremes and unsettled conditions reminiscent of what can be expected in the times ahead. Make the most of every fine day as colder weather is on the way! While mild weather may prevail in warmer districts for some time yet to come, Late Autumn conditions will become obvious in the next few weeks with cooler and damper weather ahead.
 
A Fine Week for Planting:
This Mid Autumn Full Moon is one of the finest of planting times. See the ‘Third Week in the Mid Autumn Garden’ for a full discussion of what can be accomplished.  Mild days, cool nights, and damper conditions makes all outdoor activities such as gardening a pleasure especially in mild and sheltered districts. This is a busy time in the garden!
 
The Waning Moon Cycle promotes strong root development. This is the finest time for planting: bulbs, corms, roots and tubers; all root crop vegetables; anything that grows from a tap root; all plants with an extensive root system; and anything needing a sustained period of root development before top growth begins.
 
Bulbs, Corms, Roots and Tubers
 
Spring Bulbs:
This is one of the finest times in Autumn to plant Spring flowering bulbs. In almost all regions, the soil has cooled down enough for planting outdoors in prepared garden beds and open lawn sites.
 
The only exceptions are the mildest subtropical regions. Even there, most species of Narcissus (commonly known as Daffodils and Jonquils) along with all the warm climate bulbs (Babiana, Freesia, Ixia, Nerine and many more) can easily be planted now.
 
But in these very mildest climates where ground temperatures remain warm (Summer flowers and vegetables are still producing), wait until the soil cools off a little longer. Plant these classic Spring-flowering bulbs in Late Autumn or Early Winter.
 
An easy way to determine planting time for Spring flowering bulbs is wherever night temperatures are dropping consistently below 12C/53.6F and the autumnal leaves are at least just beginning to change colour, this is an ideal time to start planting them.
 
Most Spring-flowering bulbs can be stored in an airy, darkish, dry environment at cool room temperature for many weeks or even months without damage. Cardboard boxes often work well for storage containers. This allows them to remain in a state of suspended animation. That can be convenient if garden space remains limited, the season remains too mild or lifestyle restrictions do not permit the time for planting at present. Check bulbs regularly and turn them much like stored Onions or Potatoes. At the first sign of any perishing, shrivelling or disease, all the rest of them will not be far behind so they all must be planted or enter refrigeration at once!
 
Most classic Spring-flowering bulbs are ‘cool’ climate bulbs that originated from regions with a cold Winter season. This includes Crocus and many minor bulbs (Anemone, Chionodoxa, Ranunculus, Scilla, Hyacinth and all Tulips. These will require a significant period of cold conditions or a period of refrigeration (‘chilling’) that simulates Winter prior to flowering. This chilling happens naturally outdoors over the Winter months in colder climates (most regions south of the Bombay Hills in New Zealand).
 
In mild climates significant cold weather is not reliably long enough.  So this ‘chilling’ can be accomplished by placing the dry bulbs unpotted in open boxes or mesh bags in the refrigerator. Never allow them to freeze!  Avoid paper or plastic bags as these can sweat or retain dampness that may trigger premature root development, fungal diseases or rot. Keep them away from Apples or Pineapple as the ethylene gas they emit can damage the bulbs. After the required weeks of chilling they can be removed from refrigeration and planted outdoors in the Winter or Early Spring garden where they will usually begin flowering in 4-6 weeks or longer.
 
Alternatively, bulbs meant for early flowers (‘forcing’) can be potted and placed in refrigeration now or over successive weeks/months. This allows the development of a strong and substantial root system which ultimately produces better and often bigger blooms. This is what professional Growers do for the Florist Trade that produces Spring flowers throughout much of the year. It is also one way home Gardeners can produce early ‘forced’ flowers that are such a treasure especially on dreary Winter days.
 
Another way to force bulbs is to pot them now and then place the pots in a cool, dark, moist and shady place outdoors. Perhaps under shrubbery or on the shady side of a wall where they will remain very cool but never freeze. It is permissible for the bulb pots to receive chilling cold drafts provided their soil never dries out. Plastic pots are much better for this as they don’t ‘breath’ like porous terracotta. If the terracotta look appeals, plan to grow your bulbs in plastic pots, then slip the plastic pot inside a terracotta pot for show prior to flowering time.
 
There is another alternative in climates that experience significant Winter freezing.  The bulb pots are well-watered and then buried in trenches covered over with bark, cinders, pumice, sand or mulch. Or they can be gathered into groups in a sheltered corner above the ground and placed within an enclosure made of wire, wood or mesh frame and covered deeply with mulch like spoiled hay, straw or fluffy leaves. At least 30cm/1ft of mulch needs to surround the outer perimeter and over the top of the pots to seal out cold. This way the bulbs are protected from freezing and can grow strong roots and shoots in a very natural environment. Then after the appropriate number of chilling weeks has past, the pots are uncovered/unearthed and moved indoors for early flowering.
 
Chilling times vary by the type of bulb being forced.
 
Anemone and Ranunculus species need 4-6 weeks of chilling before planting. After refrigeration, allow them to soak in mildly warm water for about an hour then plant immediately in beds, borders, containers, flats, pots or punnets. These species transplant fairly easily with care not to damage their fragile roots. They prefer an airy and sunny position in well-draining soil.
 
Crocus, Hyacinths and some Minor Bulbs (Anemone blanda, Chionodoxa, Galanthus, Muscari, etc.) planted in pots and refrigerated now can be forced into flower by Mid Winter onwards into Spring They need as little as 8 to 10 weeks of cold before bringing into a bright, cool and sheltered spot for early flowering.  When planted outdoors they need a partly sunny to sunny spot in well drained fertile soil. Allow foliage to die off naturally after flowering. They usually begin flowering 4-6 weeks after planting.
 
Most Narcissus ‘Daffodils’ need 8 to 12 weeks of cold and dark. They thrive in a variety of freely draining soils and start flowering 4- 6 weeks or longer after planting.
 
Classic yellow Daffodils like King Alfred and hardy white and cream Ice Follies will need 8-10 weeks of chilling. Golden Soliel D Or, creamy and sweetly fragrant Bridal Crown and most other multi-flowering “Jonquils” need 10-12 weeks of cold.
 
The beautiful hybrid doubles and ruffled coronas perform better with 12-14 weeks of refrigeration. They perform well in larger pots with ample root area. Alternatively, plant the hybrid doubles in a sunny, well drained and very sheltered position out of strong winds and away from pelting rains. While absolutely gorgeous, these fluffy and heavy-headed flowers are famous for being smashed into the mud by inclement weather. After flowering, foliage must be allowed to ripen naturally for blooming in following years in the garden.
 
Tulips can be successfully forced after 12 to 16 weeks or a few weeks longer. Early-flowering, dwarf and species varieties should be potted or planted first as they do not perform as well once weather becomes warm. Cottage, Triumph, Single Late, some double varieties and the spectacular Darwin Hybrid Tulips are particularly well suited to forcing and flowering in containers or in garden beds. After flowering allow foliage to mature and begin to soften, yellow and wither. As soon as the flowering stem is pliable enough to wrap around one’s finger without snapping, the bulbs are best lifted and stored in open boxes or flats. Later they can be sorted and once again refrigerated the following Autumn. Many hybrid Tulips do not keep well and are best treated as annuals and replaced each year.
 
All these bulbs can remain in refrigeration up to 22 weeks but no longer.
 
Proper chilling is essential. Bulbs force most successfully with a consistent temperature of no higher than 4C/39.2. Never let them freeze! Fluctuating temperatures can also result in poor flowering. If these bulbs do not get the required length of cold they need, their buds may fail to develop properly (‘blasting’); may flower on very short stumpy stems or within the bulb; or flowers may be deformed or rot.
 
Paper White Narcissus is a little miracle that is the very easiest to force into flower. There are a ‘warm’ weather Mediterranean Narcissus species that needs no refrigeration at all so can be forced into bloom even sooner. If potted now, they will begin flowering usually in 4-6 weeks. These are so hardy that they are often grown in decorative bowls filled with pebbles and water with a tiny bit of liquid fertilizer added.  The bulbs store well in an airy, darkish, dry and cool environment. So it would be possible to plant one or more pots every two weeks and have Paper White Narcissus blooms to enjoy for months to come.
 
Staggered Bulb Planting:
While right now may be the most ideal ‘natural’ time to plant Spring-flowering bulbs, it is hardly the only time to plant them.
 
When combining dry storage with refrigeration of early, mid-season and late-blooming species, flowering can be easily extended over many months.
 
Because Spring-flowering bulbs are dormant, they can be planted at almost any time of the month and over many months. This offers remarkable scope to have various Spring flowering bulbs blooming out of season for almost the entire year!
 
Traditionally, the Waning Moon Cycle (which favours root development) is the most ‘ideal’ time to plant a wide assortment of bulbs, corms, roots and tubers. This is when Professional Bulb Growers often start them to promote bigger bulb size, multiplication and strongest root development. This results in a healthy, robust and vigorous plant.
 
When grown for larger flowers for the Florist Trade, a Waxing Moon cycle (promotes top-growth and flowering) is often considered to be the ‘ideal’ time for planting. But these larger flowers often come at the expense of the bulbs which may wither away after blooming.
 
Keep Planting!
Mid Autumn’s climate is particularly well-suited to root planting at almost any time of the month, but especially now during this Waning Moon Cycle. This way the bulbs have time to establish a strong root system before the onset of Winter. This root system then supports much more dramatic and vigorous Spring growth and flowering. Extreme weather events become more common now in temperate and cooler climates. This means that planting soil is liable to remain moist, encouraging some top growth but mostly root development. There is enough variety to keep Gardeners planting for a long time.
 
Bulbs, Corms and Roots to plant now included:
Achimenes (tropical gardens or warm glasshouse only), Allium, Amaryllis belladonna, Calochortus (Mariposa Lily), Camassia, Chionodoxa (Glory of the Snow), Dipidax, Eranthis (Winter Aconite), Erythronium (Dog’s Tooth Violet), Eucharis Lily (warm climate or glasshouse), Freesia, Galanthus (Snow Drop),  Haemanthus (Blood Flower), Hyacinth, Hypoxis (Star Grass), Iris (Bearded, Dutch, Siberian and species), Leucojum (Snowflake), Lycoris (Spider Lily), Moraea,  Muscari (Grape Hyacinth), Narcissus, Nerine (last chance), Notholirion, Ornithogalum, Oxalis hybrids, Ranunculus, Scilla (Wood Hyacinth), Sparaxis, Tritonia, Tulip, Veltheimia, Zantedeschia and more locally.
 
Summer Bulbs:
Summer bulbs will begin to die-off, fade or wither now. Some like early-flowering Gladioli and Watsonia may have already disappeared and been dug.  In climates with significant Winter freezing or very wet spells, the remainder should be dug up now as tops begin to yellow and wither in all but the driest and mildest climates. Start to dry-off and store most other tender tubers and bulbs like Amaryllis, Gloxinia, Hippeastrum, Tuberous Begonia, and Tuberose as they finish and begin to wither.

Also in colder climates that experience any significant freezing, dig Arum/Calla, Canna, Dahlia, Watsonia and all other tender bulbs, corms, roots and tubers. This is especially important anywhere that experiences prolonged cold, wet wintry conditions, which can do as much damage as persistent freezing.
 
Once dug, store them in an airy, cool, dry and frost-free spot. Usually dark positions are best. They usually store best when immersed in dry peat, old (dry) potting soil, peat, perlite, sphagnum moss, untreated sawdust, vermiculite, etc. that remains rather dry. Avoid storing in damp soil which will surely result in rot. Periodically throughout the Winter, check their progress and be prepared to dust or spray them with Copper or Sulphur dust to prevent the spread of fungal infections or rot. Plan to repot and restart them in Late Winter/early Spring.
 
Lily bulbs of most varieties can also be dug and transplanted at this time. The best time is soon after their top growth dies away entirely. Lily bulb scales dry out quickly so they should be transplanted as soon as possible. If they are to be stored, maintain them in cool or refrigerated conditions in almost dry but slightly moistened peat or sphagnum. Many Lilies are damaged by severe ground freezing. If they might possibly freeze, plan to give them protective mulch once the ground is thoroughly cool but before it completely freezes. Lilies grown in pots should be moved to a drier and frost free position. Their bulbs can be repotted as soon as foliage dies down and throughout the cooler months: earlier is better so as to avoid the possibility of damaging emerging shoots as the season advances toward spring.
 
More to Plant:
Also continue planting and sowing seed of many types of: hardy annual, biennial and perennial flowers and their seedlings, and advanced container-grown plants; all hardy herbs and winter/spring vegetables, especially those that produce their crops below the ground;  include a wide variety of brambles and canes, groundcovers, fruiting and ornamental shrubs, trees and vines.
 
Shrubs, Trees and Vines:
Where ever the ground is moist and fertile, and the climate benevolent, now starts the time to shift and transplant many broad leafed evergreens, conifers and ornamental shrubs and trees. This includes many favourites like Camellia, Daphne, Pieris, Rhododendron; many types of Australian, Mediterranean and South African species, hedging and most groundcovers.
 
In (sub) tropical regions, Citrus and many evergreen fruiting species, plus cycads, Palms and most ornamental subtropical shrubs and trees can be planted from established containers. Many can also be shifted successfully from one position to another. Make sure they are securely tied or staked at the time of transplanting and remain well misted and watered until they stop wilting and become well established.
 
If conditions remain dry and warm or otherwise inclement for successful planting in your area, just wait a while until the climate becomes benevolent. Planting holes could be dug and lightly enriched now in anticipation of later planting once cooler and damper conditions return.
 
Vegetables:
Now through the remainder of the month favours the planting and sowing of all hardy root crops. Also sow or carefully transplant edible herbs and vegetables with extensive root systems and tap roots.
 
Peas:
In sheltered gardens experiencing mild Winters with little freezing, this is an excellent time to sow Peas. The same applies to Sweet Peas. They can also be transplanted very carefully from containers, but even a small amount of root damage or disturbance will set Peas back or permanently stunt them. Sowing from seed direct where the plants are meant to grow is by far the best method. Choose a sunny, well drained or raised bed out of strong winds and chilling drafts or severe frosts. Cultivate the land deeply as Peas form a deeply penetrating tap root and many fine feeding roots that spread out nearer the surface.
 
In frosty climates experiencing ground freezing, Peas and Sweet Peas can be established in a glasshouse or sunny shelter. Best results occur when they are seeded directly into the ground soil within the glasshouse or into an open raised bed where the roots are allowed to run. Under such conditions it is not unusual for them to climb up trellising or cords to the ceiling. Pinching our the central leader when the plants are 1ft/30cm tall or less will encourage lateral branching. This will somewhat shorten their upward growth and result in many more flowers.
 
Dolomite and especially Dolomag Lime is very beneficial to Peas as it slightly raises soil pH while adding extra Calcium and Magnesium to the soil which greatly enhances their growth and production. Peas also enjoy extra Phosphate be it either Rock Phosphate or Superphosphate and Potassium. These ingredients should be mixed into the soil prior to planting.
 
Avoid heavy Nitrogen applications! Peas are legumes that create their own Nitrogen from nodes on their roots. Excessive additional Nitrogen feeding can toxify them, resulting in sudden collapse. Also the roots of Peas can be easily overwhelmed by the application of all sorts of fertilizers, chemical and organic. They can be killed outright with the application of wood ashes around their base.
 
Yet, while any number of soil additives can damage Peas while in active growth, adding abundant compost, fertilizers and lime to the land prior to planting will greatly benefit their later development.
 
Peas and Sweet Peas also benefit from being seeded into fairly deep trenches that have been enriched prior to sowing or transplanting. Give the trench a thorough soaking before sowing the seed. Only lightly cover over the seed and leave the soil dug from the trench on the coldest and shadiest side all along the row.
 
Once the Peas germinate, the trench and soil piled up next to it will shelter them and enhance their growth. As they start to advance upward, gradually back fill into the trench with the soil until the trench has been nearly filled 1-2inches/2.5-5cm from the top. This will insure that the Peas have a deep root system which will benefit them immensely once warmer weather returns.
 
Leaving the trench partially unfilled will act as a channel that can be flooded with water during periods of dry weather that often come as the Peas are nearing harvest and the Sweet Pea flowers are reaching their peak. Going to this amount of trouble almost always assures a memorable harvest and brilliant display of deliciously fragrant Sweet Pea flowers come the Spring.
 
Also remember that young Pea shoots are a favourite Vegetable for Birds and are adored by Slugs and Snails plus a variety of Caterpillars. It is often worth covering the emerging young plants and check on their progress daily. Be prepared in advance as predation is often so quick that an entire young crop can disappear overnight!
 
Rhubarb:
Dig and divide Rhubarb crowns plus plant new ones. Replant with generous manure dug into a very moist, almost boggy spot with plenty of sunshine. Most edible species of Rhubarb originate from colder East European and Asian climates. In very mild climates a little afternoon shade is preferential or a spot exposed to cool winds that will provide the wintry cold they prefer. Rhubarb can tolerate significant extremes of cold and freezing without damage. But hot, humid tropical Summer weather can see them fail or become quite spindly.
 
When newly planted, the crown is sometimes planted on a slightly raised mound surrounded by a broad circular trough or a trough on either side of their planting row.
 
This ensures that their crowns do not drown or rot but their spreading and strong root system can draw up plenty of watering. Be sure that Rhubarb crowns are mulched to protect them against drying out. The mulch also helps cool their surrounding soil and will keep them from heaving out of the ground during severe freezing weather.
 
Flowers to Plant:
Many Biennial and Perennial flowers are planted now for (late) Winter, Spring to Summer and even Autumn flowering. Those transplanted as advanced plants from containers will quickly establish. This is by far the best option. A few like Helleborus may bloom during the Winter months and most will start sometime after the weather warms.
 
Biennials and Perennials started from seed now will usually produce small plants that will winter-over with some protection from wintry conditions. These will usually also flower later in the next growing season or the following year.
 
In mild climates experiencing only minor freezes or a few frosts or none at all, almost any Perennial which is traditionally planted in Spring can also be transplanted in Autumn. In very cold climates experiencing months of extreme freezing, all plantings should be mulched up, but not over their tops. Once the ground freezes, then cover the tops with mulch to protect against freeze/thaw damage. Leave this mulch in place until all danger of severe freezing has past in Spring.
 
Plant or Sow these Biennials Now:
Alcea rosea (Hollyhock), Anchusa azurea (Azure Forget-Me-Not), Cynoglossum and Myosotis  (species of Forget-Me-Not), Angelica, Bellis perennis (hybrid English Daisy), Brompton Stock, Canterbury Bells, Caraway, Dianthus barbatus (Sweet William and most species), Digitalis (Foxglove), Echium (Viper’s Bugloss, dwarf and tall species), Hesperis (Dames Rocket), Lunaria (Honesty), Mullein, Oenothera (Evening Primrose),  Pansy and Viola, Rudbeckia (Black/Brown-Eyed Susan), Vervain (Verbena), Wallflower among others.
 
Some of the species are actually perennials but tend to be short-lived so often are grown as biennial plantings that are started one year and flower the next. In very benevolent situations some of these plantings might reward with several years of bloom and many will reseed readily when given half a chance.

Perennials to start now include:
Acanthus, Althea (Hollyhock), Alstroemaria, Chrysanthemum, Convallaria (Lily-of-the Valley), Dicentra (Bleeding Heart), Gazania, Gerbera, Geum, Helleborus (Winter Rose), Incarvillea (Pride of China), Meconopsis (Himalayan Blue Poppy), Mertensia (Virginia Blue Bell), Oriental Poppies, Polyanthus, Primula, Pulmonaria (Lungwort), Pyrethrum (Painted Daisy), Sedums and Succulents (most species/varieties), Tritoma/Kniphofia (Red Hot Poker), Trollis (Globe Flower) and many more locally. While perennial Phlox and Shasta Daisy can be successfully transplanted now, especially in larger clumps, these two perennials respond better to Late Winter/Early Spring transplanting.
 
Glasshouse:
Remove shading from the glasshouse to maximise late season sunlight. Start heating as night temperatures fall below 12 C/53.6 degrees; 15 C/59F degrees for tropicals. It should be emphasized that this is the minimum temperature that most tender plants will tolerate before they begin to enter dormancy. If the idea is to continue growing these plants onward throughout the Winter months, it is best to start heating before night temperatures drop this low.
 
For fastest growth also start supplementing the reduced day-length with extra hours of artificial lighting. This will produce an environmental situation similar to what would be experienced in (sub) tropical latitudes which should result in continued flowering and growth.
The only exceptions here are day-length sensitive plants like Poinsettia and Zygocactus; they need at least 12 hours of darkness or longer in order to produce quality flowering.
 
In the cool glasshouse, fernery and dormant subtropical house, extra heating is only necessary as night time temperatures approach freezing. The best approach here is to increase or maintain strong (sun) light intensity and slowly reduce watering. Watering is best done on bright and mild days combined with good air circulation and enough time for plants to dry off before nightfall. Plants growing in somewhat drier soil can handle lower temperatures better than those that are saturated which can chill and then rot.
 
Feeding continues for all Winter flowering species. Reduce feeding on Spring and Summer flowering species. These tend to enter dormancy now unless the idea is to keep them flowering all Winter. It is usually best to allowed them to slowly go dormant during the cool season ahead.
 
Houseplants:
All tender houseplants that have been spending a Summer holiday outdoors should be moved to their permanent Winter positions without delay. Before moving them indoors, they can be given a last big liquid feeding and full-spectrum systemic spray against disease and pests. Choose a bright, warm ‘Indian Summer’ day to feed them. Make sure that they are well-watered first and then apply either a liquid/foliar systemic fertilizer. Do not feed under bright, hot sunshine to avoid any chance of sun scald or chemical fertilizer salt burning. The same applies to chemical sprays to eliminate disease and pests.
 
A systemic soil drench and foliar spray against disease and pests is most important before bringing plants back indoors or into the glasshouse. This transitional time of change is stressful to the plants. While stressed, they quickly become vulnerable to attack. Glasshouse and indoor positions favour the development and rapid spread of diseases like downy and powdery mildew plus rotting and especially pests like Aphid, Mealy Bug, Mites, Scale, Thrip and White Fly. Once these pests become established indoors, they are extremely difficult to eradicate and can quickly consume entire plants and ruin or kill them. These will quickly spread inside to possibly create a major problem that might contaminate the entire growing space.
 
Spraying frequently with lukewarm water with a little liquid (dish/washing-up) soap added will help maintain adequate humidity and create a film over plant tissues that will help control or eliminate diseases and pests. Placing pots over saucers or trays filled with gravel or sand and kept moist will also help raise relative humidity which will help control many pests.
 
Reduce both the frequency and intensity of feeding and watering on houseplants and tender tropical species as temperatures start to fall. While they can be kept in active growth, their rate of growth should be reduced to balance the approaching wintry conditions. If forced to grow too quickly under these extremes, they may collapse or become soft and spindly which also invites disease and predation.
 
The exceptions here are plants grown in very bright and constantly warm conditions that are often found in many modern homes and office buildings. Here the conditions will closely resemble what the plants might have experienced outdoors during the milder summery months. Plants growing within these benevolent environments should be feed and watered on a light but regular schedule to maintain a constant level of growth.
 
Cymbidium Orchids should be moved to sheltered, sunny and warm Winter positions. Once again, this might be indoors in a sunroom or bright window, preferably a cool glasshouse or a sunny corner outdoors. Keep lightly but regularly moist. Start feeding Cymbidiums and all other Late Winter and Spring-flowering Orchids with a special Orchid flowering fertiliser rather than one for foliage. This will be higher in Phosphorous and Potassium than in Nitrogen. Buds will emerge fairly soon on the earliest flowering varieties. Guard against Slugs and Snails!!!
 
Keep Feeding:
Feed Azalea, Camellia, Daphne, Luculia, Osmanthus. Pieris and Rhododendron with an acid plant food high in Phosphorous and Potassium to encourage the development of flower buds. Chaenomeles (Japanese Quince), Chimonanthus (Winter Sweet), Hamamelis (Witch Hazel) and most other Late Autumn, Winter and Early Spring flowering shrubs will also benefit from a final feeding and compost mulch now.   When rains fail, provide a good soaking once a week to encourage healthy bud development. Always apply fertilizer over thoroughly wet soil.
 
Never Ending Maintenance
 
Pruning:
Cut back Late Summer and Autumn flowering shrubs as soon as they finish. This includes Cassia, Bougainvillea, Buddleia and Hydrangea. Also shape and trim conifers and hedges plus most ornamental foliage shrubs.
 
Do not prune back Late Autumn, Winter and Spring-flowering shrubs, trees and vines. Flower buds are forming and any pruning will remove these. If they have grown out-of-bounds, it will not damage the plants to cut them back, but some flowering will certainly be lost in the process.
 
Pruning at this time will control new growth. Avoid pruning heavily next week until after the New Moon (7 May) or there may be more die-back than expected. Bougainvillea is best given only a trim. If cut back hard, make sure there is enough growth remaining on each stump for the development of lateral shoots that carry the colourful bracts. In climates that could experience heavy frosts, it is best to trim only lightly now and do the heavier pruning in the Spring after all danger of frost has passed.
 
Clean and Tidy:
To maintain flowering displays and vegetable harvests, dead-head faded flowers. Cut back lightly any strong stems that have already produced good flowering and fruiting but appear now to be spent. Remove all old and tattered leaves plus anything showing signs of disease, predation or yellowing.  This will often stimulate healthy plants to produce extra flowering, fruiting and new growth. Also feed all garden beds to keep plants producing longer. Foliar feeding which is absorbed directly into the plant tissues where it is most needed is extremely beneficial this late in the season.
 
Lawns:
Continue to sow and top dress lawns. This is an ideal time to reseed existing lawns and to establish new lawns while soil remains warm and weather conditions continue relatively settled but damper. Be sure to water regularly if Autumn rains fail. Once weather cools and dampens it is acceptable to cut lawns a little shorter than during the hotter months.
 

This First Week of Mid Autumn in the Garden 2017:

week one - week two - week three - week four

aprdir2012-12-230x153Autumn begins with a good planting week for many Gardeners. New Moon, bringing the lunar beginning of Mid Autumn occurred 28 March. This was in the classic water sign of (sidereal) Pisces that often advances damp, humid and wet conditions. Now the Waxing Moon Cycle strengthens throughout the week leading up to the Full Moon (11April). This time of increasing moonlight promotes rapid top growth in plants plus increased flowering and vegetable development, especially in crops that are produced above the ground.

Daylight Savings time ends Sunday morning 2 April 2017

This is an ideal time to plant to establish a Mid/Late Autumn and Winter flower display or vegetable garden. Seed sown now will produce flowering plants and vegetable crops next Spring onward. Weather permitting, most things planted on a Waxing Moon Cycle establish easily and quickly. That makes this an ideal time to plant a landscape for the longer term.

Harvest Time:
As the Moon brightens throughout the week, water retention will increase reaching its peak during the days around the Full Moon (11April). First Quarter Moon arrives 4 April bringing the Full Waxing Moon Cycle that further augments good gardening conditions. This makes the beginning of the best days to harvest vegetables that are crisp, juicy fruits and anything meant for immediate use plus for jam, juices and wines or preserves.

Planting Time: Don’t Miss this!
Plant/sow a wide variety of flowering Annuals, Biennials, and Perennials; all hardy Herbs; groundcovers; fruiting and ornamental brambles and canes, shrubs, trees and vines, plus a wide variety of field crops, grains and all hardy vegetables plus tender ones within a the heated glasshouse or frost-free shelter.

While the Moon passes in front of (sidereal) Taurus (1-2 April) and Cancer (5-6 April) these are both brilliant ‘growth’ signs perfect for planting and sowing. Taurus is an earth sign ideally suited for planting bulbs; a wide variety of annual, biennial and perennial flowers and for sowing almost anything, especially root crops. Cancer, being a water sign interacting with a Full Waxing Moon, means that extra water retention will benefit both planting and sowing. This is the ideal time to plant or sow all sorts of luminous and/or ‘round’ things: cabbages and Lettuces; Swedes and Turnips; Honesty (Lunaria) and Poppies; Camellias and Roses; most night-blooming and white flowers. Remember that high water retention also increases the possibility of blights and rot, especially in anything that is over watered or remains excessively wet.

Moon moves through (sidereal) Gemini (3-4 April). While this is technically a ‘barren’ air sign, this lunar placement makes this a good time for transplanting (weather permitting) and for planting and sowing all manner of double things: double flowers (Allium, Goldenrod, Ranunculus, etc.) and multiple flowers (Jonquils, Sweat Peas); seed bearing plants like Caraway and Coriander); multiple vegetables like Parsley and Peas; almost anything hardy and especially Wildflower seeds.

These could potentially be amongst the finest planting days this Autumn so make the most of this bright and golden opportunity.

Exhibition Flowers and Root Crops:
This is a very special transitional time in the growing season. The Mid Autumn Full Waxing Moon Cycle (4-10 April) is one of those moments of near-perfect timing for producing exhibition quality results.

The days leading up toward the Full Moon (11 April) are times of increasing moonlight and high water retention which promotes quick seed germination and strong top growth. The Waning Moon Cycle begins directly after the Full Moon and continues until the New Moon. Waning Moon Cycle is characterized by diminishing moonlight and increasing gravitational extremes that promotes strong root development. So when seeds or seedlings are planted leading up to the Full Moon, they gain both the benefits of top growth and root development. This is possibly best demonstrated when growing exhibition Beets, Carrots and Parsnips. But it also affects almost everything with a tap root or an extensive root system which includes a wide variety of garden flowers as well as many bulbs, corms, roots and tubers.

With benevolent weather and appropriate care, planting seedlings and sowing seed in these days leading up toward the Full Moon often produces exhibition flowers and vegetables.

Flowers:
There is still time to transplant a wide range of annual, biennial and perennial flowers for the Late Autumn, Winter, Spring and next Summer’s garden and beyond. This includes many things transplanted from containers, sown as fresh seed or established from cuttings and root divisions.

Obviously, the best and fastest result will come from transplanting advanced seedlings and ‘instant’ colour pots that will give an immediate impact. Seed can also be sown for a variety of annual, biennial and perennial plants. But with the remaining number of bright and mild days ahead becoming shorter, choose to sow in a very sheltered position like a protected cold frame, heated glasshouse, or very sheltered and warm nursery environment. Next best position would be a very sunny wall up against a building on a paved surface and sheltered from drafts and night chilling. This will provide greatest reflected light and retain so much heat that growth rates could rival those of summertime.

Garden Flowers to Plant Now:
Aquilegia (Granny Bonnets), Arctotis, Bellis perennis (English Daisy) , Canterbury Bells, Carnation, Cineraria, Cyclamen, Delphinium, Dianthus, Feverfew (Tanacetum), Forget-Me-Not (Myosotis), Foxglove (Digitalis) , Gaillardia (Indian Blanket), Hellebore (Winter Rose),Hollyhock (Althaea), Iceland Poppy (most Poppy species), Larkspur, Limnanthes Sea Foam/Meadow Foam), Livingstone Daisy, Lupin, Nemesia, Polyanthus and Primula species, Snapdragon Antirrhinum) , Strawflower (Helichrysum), Stock (Matthiola) , Sweet Pea (Lathyrus), Wallflower (Erysimum) and much more.

Vegetables:
This is one of those special times when both vegetables that produce their crops above the ground and root crops can be planted or sown in the same week.

Protect all newly planted seedlings and young plants from night chilling and possibly even early frost in exposed districts. Cloches and temporary plastic shelters are often worth the trouble as the added heating they produce will rapidly increase growth rates. This is sometimes important when starting crops this late in the season. If plants become well established and reach a productive state before colder weather arrives, this can produce a more prolonged harvest period through the wintry times ahead and much earlier Spring harvests.

All of these and many more species can be started from seed in the glasshouse, sheltered nursery or protected warm spots. In mild climates that remain relatively frost-free, these could be planted out into the garden in 6-8 weeks time or can be held over in the cold frame or nursery for planting-out in Late Winter or Early Spring.

Vegetables to Plant or Sow Now:
Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, Cabbages (Chinese and traditional varieties), Cauliflower, Cress, Endive, Lettuces (best under glass unless mild climates), Mustard, New Zealand Spinach (Tetragonia) (warm positions only), Parsley, Peas, Silver beet, Spinach; also Onions (especially Spring Onions), Swedes, Turnips; plus Broad Beans. Also start: Beet Root, Carrots, Chicory, Dwarf Beans (warm spots), Kohlrabi, Leeks, Parsnip, Radish, Salsify, Shallot (cool climates) and much more.

Strawberries:
In milder areas wherever Winter is not overly severe start or continue planting Strawberries. Runners and rooted plants both bare-root and from containers can be planted all Winter in warmer regions.
Strawberries perform best in slightly acidic soil, which is what many New Zealand Gardeners have. Soil needs to be enriched, freely draining but retentive of moisture. They require full sunshine for the best and sweetest fruit. While they will grow prolifically in partial shade, they become lushly vegetative at the expense of the berries, which are often less flavourful or even tart, and often rot. However, on a bank in strong partial sunshine or very light shade, they can make an excellent groundcover and still produce a few welcome fruits.

Container Plants:
Wherever soil is workable and the weather is benevolent, now is an excellent time to plant a very wide variety of hardy container-grown plants. Plant hardy ornamental brambles and canes, shrubs, trees, and vines from containers. It is also possible to plant Citrus an subtropical species in climates experiencing very mild Winter weather. Make sure everything is thoroughly watered immediately upon planting. Anything needing a prolonged period of root development prior to the onset of new growth can be planted most successfully now.

In very cold climates with a short growing season, be sure that such plantings are well mulched against Winter frost heaving. But in all positions, generous mulch will maintain a more constant ground temperature and balanced moisture content. Wherever severe freezing is likely, add an additional layer of ‘fluffy’ protective mulch later once the ground has begun to freeze. This maintains a cool, constant soil temperature and protects roots and lower stems from frost desiccation.

Anything tall and/or exposed to potentially extreme winds should be well secured to strong staking from the start. All plantings exposed to drying winds will also benefit from some sort of protective sheltering such as windbreak, evergreen boughs, etc.

Shrub and Tree Planting Time:
Now and in the month or two ahead is an excellent time to plant almost all varieties of Azalea, Boronia, Camellias, Daphne, Diosma, Luculia, Osmanthus, Pieris, Rhododendron, Sarcococca, Thryptomene and Vireya in milder climates plus many other Broad-leafed Evergreens; Conifers and a wide variety of hardy deciduous ornamental brambles and canes, shrubs, trees and vines. This includes such favourites as Abelia, Hydrangea; Lavender, Rosemary and many other woody Herbs plus many native plants from Australia, The Mediterranean, New Zealand, South Africa and the cooler regions of South America, plus also hedges.

Deciduous species of most sorts can easily be planted from containers before they lose their leaves provided they can be kept continually moist. In the coolest climates, these are the earliest days to start to shift and plant bare-root deciduous shrubs, trees and vines. This is best accomplished once foliage has dropped.

Hedging is often planted now through into Early Winter. This includes Conifers and most Broad-leafed Evergreens as well as most deciduous species. Hedging can be started in any location where soil remains cool and moist.

In mild climates where Winter is gentle and without significant heavy freezing also plant Citrus and evergreen fruiting species like Feijoa and Guava.

Feeding Shrubs and Trees:
Almost all ornamental species of shrubs and trees, especially broad-leafed evergreens, conifers, Late Autumn, Winter and Early Spring flowering species and most fruiting species can be fed now to enhance later flowering. Avoid fertilisers high in Nitrogen that could generate late-season leafy growth that might get damaged by wintry conditions ahead. Use a good quality balanced general plant food or one high in Phosphorous to induce better bud growth and flower quality and especially Potassium (Potash) to strengthen root development. Select a fertilizer with a ratio like: 20-20-20 (balanced nutrients) or 5-54-10 (high phosphate) or 10-20-40 (high phosphate, higher potassium), etc.

Compost can be used as both fertilizer and mulch. When using a chemical fertilizer, apply lightly over pre-moistened earth. ‘Little and often’ is much more beneficial than one enormous application that could result in feeder root burn. When it is necessary to apply more fertilizer in one application, consider adding one to two cups of chemical fertilizer mixed thoroughly into one bucket of compost or garden soil. Spread this generously over moist earth as a fertile mulch around all plantings and let Nature do the rest.

Plants from Cuttings:
The Waxing Moon Cycle increases water retention that reaches its peak around the Full Moon. High water retention in plant material is a great advantage when attempting to strike cuttings. This is especially helpful when attempting to strike maturing soft wood plant material like Carnation, Chrysanthemum, Coleus, Fuchsia, Poinsettia, etc. and also for most maturing subtropical species.

Deciduous Shrubs and Trees, Conifers, Evergreen Shrubs and Trees, Roses and many Vines can be started now as cuttings placed in a mix of perlite, pumice, sand, vermiculite and/or peat or sterilised soil. Equal parts peat and sand is often the easiest mix. Cuttings can be dipped in hormone gel or powder, which often enhances early root development. Partially fill an appropriate container, propagation bed or seedling flat with the propagating mix. Place (rather than push) each cutting into holes made with a dibble into the mix. Then fill in more propagating soil around them. Water in lightly and then put them in a bright (but not hotly sunny!) mild to warm glasshouse or sheltered cold frame or protected nursery environment with good air flow but high humidity and leave them there for the Winter.

Some Gardeners place one or more pots within a plastic bag drawn up and over the cuttings. Alternatively, invert the plastic bag over the pot and secure it around the pot with an elastic band. Attempt to keep the plastic bag off the cutting foliage within. This creates a mini-greenhouse with higher humidity that often promotes growth and root development. Keep the soil moist but never wet. Cuttings often strike within a few weeks if temperatures remain warm.

Roses and many deciduous shrub and tree cuttings can be plunged directly into the ground and covered with an inverted glass jar which also creates a mini-glasshouse. If successful, these cuttings will sprout in Spring. Alternatively, the ones started in containers or seedling flats, etc. should be ready to transplant into small containers by the Spring.

Autumnal Foliage Gardens:
Soon Mid Autumn weather will bring out autumnal foliage tints. In colder regions with a shorter growing season autumnal colour is already starting to glow. Take time to visit parks, (botanical) gardens, local nurseries and the countryside to celebrate these magic moments.

Gardeners especially in cooler and colder climates have the opportunity to create a special autumnal foliage garden. In these climates many treasured garden specimens are deciduous: they lose their leaves and go dormant throughout the long Winter ahead.

Before their leaves drop, their green chlorophyll and mineral sugars drain back into their root systems, leaving behind the classic autumnal coloured foliage. Colour displays vary from year to year. While this is somewhat dependent on climate and seasonal weather conditions, it is also affected by the mineral balance in the surrounding soil and also the unique characteristics of each plant, shrub, tree and vine.

Now is the time to become observant of these unique variations. Identify specimens that have exactly the colour tones suitable for your garden. Visit local nurseries now while these plants are in their autumnal glory and select the ‘right’ ones for your situation. With few exceptions, the best time to plant deciduous specimens is during their dormant period which is fast approaching now. So this makes an ideal time to plan and plant a special autumnal foliage garden.

Love those Leaves!
Great piles of Autumn leaves make the most mineral rich compost or protective Winter mulch. When composted or mulched and shredded with a lawn mower or mulching machine/ leaf shredder, the full benefit of all the fibre and minerals is retained and returned to the soil where it can be of greatest benefit.

When burnt, much of this mineral richness is lost, going up in smoke. But even then the remaining ashes are rich in Potash: a favourite element of Camellias, Conifers, many Broad-Leaf Evergreens, many Vegetable crops, flowering plants and most bulbs.

Be very cautious spreading fresh ashes directly around the garden, they can be very caustic so just a little goes a long way! Sprinkle lightly around anything living! Most organic ashes have a high pH which can burn tender plant material and root systems when applied fresh, especially if they drift up against a plant’s stem. Acid pH plants can be particularly damaged when ashes are fresh. One application will transform blue Hydrangeas to mauve or pink.

Do not add treated timber wood ashes to the garden and avoid burning such timber if at all possible. Treated timber ashes contain dangerous toxins so should be avoided until very well leached.

The safest way to use wood ashes is to return the ashes to the compost pile. Alternatively place them in their own special heap. Once they have been thoroughly watered, allow them to break down and leach for a while before returning them to the land. Often a scoop of composted ashes mixed into one bucket of standard compost makes an ideal potassium-enriching fertilizer for garden beds.

Whenever a garden bed is to remain fallow over the Winter months, that is an excellent time to apply wood ashes directly over the roughened land. In this situation the ashes can be applied directly without prior composting. But only apply a dusting at any one time so as not to caustically burn worms in the soil.

Pruning:
Because water retention is increasing, this week is unusually well suited to pruning. Many brambles and canes, conifers, broad-leafed evergreens, espaliers and topiaries, hedges, shrubs, trees plus vines can be lightly shaped and trimmed now to keep them shapely and tidy. This will tend to encourage a little more bushy and compact new growth. Plus it will help fill in and soften the pruning before the onset of Winter. But time remaining in the season is short so refrain from cutting back too heavily or the shrub will remain looking butchered all Winter.

Prepare for Cooler Times Ahead:
Prepare to protect tender ornamental plants from frost and freezing. For many Gardeners on warm temperate and subtropical climates temperatures are still quite mild. But if frost or colder night temperatures have not arrived yet, they soon will begin to creep into all but the warmer regions. Make sure that anything tender to cold or freezing is now in its protected Winter home. In very cold climates where the ground often freezes, mulch plants only lightly now, and add additional protective mulching once the soil is thoroughly cold and frozen.

Of special importance is to insure that anything tender and vulnerable to damage by freezing or frost, excessive chill, wet and wind is moved into shelter immediately. This gives them the opportunity to acclimatize gradually and thus avoid the shock of a sudden move followed by wintry chill if the job were left until the last possible moment. Winter and Spring-flowering Orchids like Cattleya, Dendrobium, Laelia, Cymbidium, Paphilopedilum, Phaleonopsis, Odontoglossum, Oncidium and many others should be in their Winter positions now. They need sunny mild days, cool nights and no chilling drafts or frosts. Continue feeding with an Orchid fertiliser suitable to promote bud development and flowering; but reduce watering especially on tropical varieties.

Disease and Pests:
Now that conditions are damper, darker, humid and more often wet, guard most stringently against predation by Caterpillars and especially Slugs and Snails. These pests can travel for quite a distance and arise very quickly and unexpectedly for the unprepared. In the case of Orchids and also many emerging bulb shoots, their damage can be profound as a single mouthful disfigures or eliminates exposed bud petals which ruins an entire year(s) of effort. Lay baits before this happens and check frequently all suspected haunts to eliminate them before they eliminate your treasured flowers and also Vegetable crops!

Mildew, mould and rots often set in whenever weather becomes cloudy, damp or excessively wet and still. Spraying with an appropriate fungicide or organic copper powder can be very helpful to control these problems. Opening the garden up to increased air circulation also helps to prevent this sort of damage.

But these problems are often an inevitable part of the transition to more wintry times ahead. Often it is best to admit defeat and send this decaying material to the compost heap where it can be recycled to be used again in brighter, sunnier seasons ahead.
 


This Second Week of Mid Autumn in the Garden 2017:

week one - week two - week three - week four

aprdir2012-13-230x153This week features the classic ‘Harvest’ Full Moon (6PM NZST11April) in the finest harvest sign (sidereal) Virgo. This represents the lunar peak of Mid Autumn. This Harvest Moon should be an imposing sight as it rises exactly full, golden and round in the northeast sky shortly around 6PM. Jupiter rises shortly before the Moon. It is at its opposition to the Sun, closest to the Earth and brightest for the year on the 8th. So the rising of Jupiter and the Harvest Moon should make a beautiful picture and a very good sign for the season that follows. The Waning Moon Cycle then dominates until the Late Autumn New Moon (27 April).

Full Waxing Moon in sidereal Leo (late 6-7-8 April) starts the week and is good for harvesting warm season crops and Virgo Moon (9-12 April) is much the same and a traditional time for harvesting fields of grain and gathering of crops and seed. Leo and Virgo are both ‘barren’ signs, so it is important to remain alert to any potential extreme or inclement environmental situations that could damage tender plantings. But in this auspicious placement, these are more likely to be good times to plant and sow a variety of flowers, fruits and vegetables.

Leo days will favour the planting and sowing of many bright, colourful flowers: Arctotis, Calendula, Carnation, Chamomile, Chrysanthemums, Dianthus, Gazania, Herbs, Marigold; trees like Citrus, Ash, Liquid Amber and any with brightly coloured foliage. It is also an excellent time to plants or sow all vegetables that prefer sunny and warm aspects plus seed of all forms of field grains, Broad Beans, Peas as well as lawns.

Virgo days can be especially good for sowing seed of most hardy herbs, especially anything savoury. Most hardy shrubs and trees and almost all Spring-flowering species respond well when planted now. This will be a brilliant time to sow seed of all root crops and anything with an extensive root system or tap root. Plant all manner of bulbs, corms, roots and tubers. Now is one of the very best times to design and plant Spring-flowering bulbs for a special display or forcing their flowers in containers. It is a perfect time to plant fields of things like Anemone, Aconite, Crocus, Cyclamen, Daffodils and all Narcissus species plus Tulips; all hardy grain crops; (re)seeding of fields, golf courses and lawns; plus establishing wildflower borders and meadows.

Libra Moon days happen 13-14 April. Weather permitting; this could be a brilliant time to plant or sow all beautiful, elegant and hybrid flowers; all bulbs, corms, roots and tubers, especially Cyclamen, Lilies and Spring-flowering bulbs; a wide variety of vegetables, especially leafy crops like Lettuce and Gourmet crops like Peas and Spices; herbs like Caraway, Coriander, Mint and many others; most succulent fruit trees from containers like Apple, Fig, Peach, Pear, Plum, etc.; also nut trees like Almond, Butternut, Pecan and Walnut; Grapes and other flowering and fruiting vines; most ornamental flowering and fruiting shrubs and trees like Ash, Birch, Holly, Roses and much more.

Exhibition Flowers and Root Crops:
Early this week is the culmination of a special transitional moment in the Mid Autumn growing season when the Moon Cycle is near-perfect for potentially producing exhibition quality results. Hurry, as it finishes soon!

As the Full Moon approaches, hours of available light increase as does water retention. Both reach their peak at the Full Moon. These conditions promote quick seed germination and strong top growth. The Waning Moon Cycle (12-26 April) promotes strong root development as moonlight decreases. So when seeds or seedlings are planted leading up to the Full Moon, they gain both the benefits of top growth and root development. The finest exhibition Beets, Carrots and Parsnips are usually started during times like these. This is also the time to start everything with a tap root or an extensive root system which includes a wide variety of garden flowers as well as many bulbs, corms, roots and tubers.

If blessed with benevolent weather, planting seedlings and sowing seed of just about anything appropriate just prior to the Full Moon often produces exhibition flowers and vegetables.

A Favourable Ascending Moon:
As the Moon ascends into Southern Hemisphere skies it is liable to push a flush of humid, warm air ahead of it bringing spring-like conditions. Any colder regions that have already experienced a frost would them have their Indian Summer days. The Moon’s ascension into the Southern Hemisphere continues around 19 April and its effects may linger a little longer. While a cooler spell may follow that, mild weather is likely to prevail in warmer districts for some time yet to come.

A Fine Week for Planting:
This Mid Autumn Full Moon is one of the finest of planting times. See the ‘First Week in the Mid Autumn Garden’ for a full discussion of what can be accomplished. Mild days, cool nights, and damper conditions makes all outdoor activities such as gardening a pleasure especially in mild and sheltered districts. This is a busy time in the garden!

The Waning Moon Cycle promotes strong root development. This is the finest time for planting: bulbs, corms, roots and tubers; all root crop vegetables; anything that grows from a tap root; all plants with an extensive root system; and anything needing a sustained period of root development before top growth begins.

Bulbs, Corms, Roots and Tubers:
Spring Bulbs: This is one of the finest times in Autumn to plant Spring flowering bulbs. In almost all regions, the soil has cooled down enough for planting outdoors in prepared garden beds and open lawn sites.

The only exceptions are the mildest subtropical regions. Even there, most species of Narcissus (commonly known as Daffodils and Jonquils) along with all the warm climate bulbs (Babiana, Freesia, Ixia, Nerine and many more) can easily be planted now. This gives them the opportunity to develop a strong root system before growth slows during colder wintry weather.

But in these very mildest subtropical climates where ground temperatures remain warm (Summer flowers and vegetables are still producing), many Gardeners will wait until the soil cools off a little longer. Often they will store the bulbs in an airy, cool, dry place or refrigerate them with the intention to plant these classic Spring-flowering bulbs in Late Autumn or Early Winter.

An easy way to determine planting time for Spring flowering bulbs is wherever night temperatures are dropping consistently below 12C/53.6F and the autumnal leaves are at least just beginning to change colour, this is an ideal time to start planting them.

Most Spring-flowering bulbs can be stored in an airy, darkish, dry environment at cool room temperature for many weeks or even months without damage. Cardboard boxes often work well for storage containers. This allows them to remain in a state of suspended animation. That can be convenient if garden space remains limited, the season remains too mild or lifestyle restrictions do not permit the time for planting at present. Check bulbs regularly and turn them much like stored Onions or Potatoes. At the first sign of any perishing, shrivelling or disease, all the rest of them will not be far behind so they all must be planted or enter refrigeration at once!

Most classic Spring-flowering bulbs are ‘cool’ climate bulbs that originated from regions with a cold Winter season.

This includes:
Crocus and many minor bulbs (Anemone, Chionodoxa, Ranunculus, Scilla, Hyacinth and all Tulips. These will require a significant period of cold conditions or a period of refrigeration (‘chilling’) that simulates Winter prior to flowering. This chilling happens naturally outdoors over the Winter months in colder climates (most regions south of the Bombay Hills in New Zealand).

In mild climates significant cold weather is not reliably long enough. So this ‘chilling’ can be accomplished by placing the dry bulbs unpotted in open boxes or mesh bags in the refrigerator. Never allow them to freeze! Avoid paper or plastic bags as these can sweat or retain dampness that may trigger premature root development, fungal diseases or rot. Keep them away from Apples or Pineapple as the ethylene gas they emit can damage the bulbs. After the required weeks of chilling they can be removed from refrigeration and planted outdoors in the Winter or Early Spring garden where they will usually begin flowering in 4-6 weeks or longer.

Alternatively, bulbs meant for early flowers (‘forcing’) can be potted and placed in refrigeration now or over successive weeks/months. This allows the development of a strong and substantial root system which ultimately produces better and often bigger blooms. This is what professional Growers do for the Florist Trade that produces Spring flowers throughout much of the year. It is also one way home Gardeners can produce early ‘forced’ flowers that are such a treasure especially on dreary Winter days.

Another way to force bulbs is to pot them now and then place the pots in a cool, dark, moist and shady place outdoors. Perhaps under shrubbery or on the shady side of a wall where they will remain very cool but never freeze. It is permissible for the bulb pots to receive chilling cold drafts provided their soil never dries out. Plastic pots are much better for this as they don’t ‘breath’ like porous terracotta. If the terracotta look appeals, plan to grow your bulbs in plastic pots, then slip the plastic pot inside a terracotta pot for show prior to flowering time.

There is another alternative in climates that experience significant Winter freezing. The bulb pots are well-watered and then buried in trenches covered over with bark, cinders, pumice, sand or mulch. Or they can be gathered into groups in a sheltered corner above the ground and placed within an enclosure made of wire, wood or mesh frame and covered deeply with mulch like spoiled hay, straw or fluffy leaves. At least 30cm/1ft of mulch needs to surround the outer perimeter and over the top of the pots to seal out cold. This way the bulbs are protected from freezing and can grow strong roots and shoots in a very natural environment. Then after the appropriate number of chilling weeks has past, the pots are uncovered/unearthed and moved indoors for early flowering.

Chilling times vary by the type of bulb being forced.

Anemone and Ranunculus species need 4-6 weeks of chilling before planting. After refrigeration, allow them to soak in mildly warm water for about an hour then plant immediately in beds, borders, containers, flats, pots or punnets. These species transplant fairly easily with care not to damage their fragile roots. They prefer an airy and sunny position in well-draining soil.

Freesia is a South African native. Some of the species like Freesia burtonii naturalize quite well when left alone provided they remain in very well drained positions that receive sufficient summery drought and heat. The hybrid varieties are normally specially heated treated for about 12 weeks at 30 C degrees before being sold. Home Gardeners often will find their second year corms do better when being dug and heated treated in a similar manner: stored in a paper or mesh bag places in a dark, dry warm place to cure . Alternatively, grow them in containers. After foliage fades, move the pots to a very dry and warm position for the Summer. Then after that Freesias respond to mild chilling for 4-6 weeks before being planted in freely draining potting mix.

Crocus, Hyacinths and some Minor Bulbs (Anemone blanda, Chionodoxa, Galanthus, Muscari, etc.) planted in pots and refrigerated now can be forced into flower by Mid Winter onwards into Spring. They need as little as 8 to 10 weeks of cold before bringing into a bright, cool and sheltered spot for early flowering. But they often need longer than that. When planted outdoors they need a partly sunny to sunny spot in well drained fertile soil. Allow foliage to die off naturally after flowering. They usually begin flowering 4-6 weeks after planting.

Most Narcissus ‘Daffodils’ need 8 to 12 weeks of cold and dark and some hybrid varieties up to 16 weeks of chilling. They thrive in a variety of freely draining soils and start flowering 4- 6 weeks or longer after planting. Classic yellow Daffodils like King Alfred and hardy white and cream Ice Follies will need 8-10 weeks of chilling. Golden Soliel D Or, creamy and sweetly fragrant Bridal Crown and most other multi-flowering “Jonquils” need 10-12 weeks of cold.

The beautiful hybrid doubles and ruffled coronas perform better with 12-14 weeks of refrigeration. They perform well in larger pots with ample root area. Alternatively, plant the hybrid doubles in a sunny, well drained and very sheltered position out of strong winds and away from pelting rains. While absolutely gorgeous, these fluffy and heavy-headed flowers are famous for being smashed into the mud by inclement weather. After flowering, foliage must be allowed to ripen naturally for blooming in following years in the garden.

Tulips can be successfully forced after 12 to 16 weeks or a few weeks longer. They can tolerate refrigeration up to 22 weeks. Early-flowering, dwarf and species varieties should be potted or planted first as they do not perform as well once weather becomes warm. Cottage, Triumph, Single Late, some double varieties and the spectacular Darwin Hybrid Tulips are particularly well suited to forcing and flowering in containers or in garden beds. After flowering allow foliage to mature and begin to soften, yellow and wither. As soon as the flowering stem is pliable enough to wrap around one’s finger without snapping, the bulbs are best lifted and stored in open boxes or flats. Later they can be sorted and once again refrigerated the following Autumn. Many hybrid Tulips do not keep well and are best treated as annuals and replaced each year.

Cool Season Spring Flowering Bulbs in General: All these bulbs can remain in refrigeration up to 22 weeks but no longer. Proper chilling is essential. Bulbs force most successfully with a consistent temperature of no higher than 4C/39.2. Never let them freeze! Fluctuating temperatures can also result in poor flowering. If these bulbs do not get the required length of cold they need, their buds may fail to develop properly (‘blasting’); may flower on very short stumpy stems or within the bulb; or flowers may be deformed or rot. One of the easiest ways to know when a container of pre-chilled bulbs is ready to bring out of refrigeration is when roots begin to show out the bottom of the pots’ drainage hole. Once this happens, bring the pot(s) into a bright, cool position out of drafts and direct sunlight. Let the emerging shoots that will be pale and tender, acclimatize to the light. Once they have developed a brighter green colour and are starting to grow strongly, bring them into a brighter position or ‘soft’ sunlight (morning sun or filtered sunlight) in an unheated room that preferably stays quite cool. Blooming should commence within a few weeks.

Paper White Narcissus is a little miracle that is the very easiest to force into flower. There are a ‘warm’ weather Mediterranean Narcissus species that needs no refrigeration at all so can be forced into bloom even sooner. If potted now, they will begin flowering usually in 4-6 weeks. These are so hardy that they are often grown in decorative bowls filled with pebbles and water with a tiny bit of liquid fertilizer added. The bulbs store well in an airy, darkish, dry and cool environment. So it would be possible to plant one or more pots every two weeks and have Paper White Narcissus blooms to enjoy for months to come.

Staggered Bulb Planting:
While right now may be the most ideal ‘natural’ time to plant Spring-flowering bulbs, it is hardly the only time to plant them.

When combining dry storage with refrigeration of early, mid-season and late-blooming species, flowering can be easily extended over many months. Because Spring-flowering bulbs are dormant, they can be planted at almost any time of the month and over many months. This offers remarkable scope to have various Spring flowering bulbs blooming out of season for almost the entire year!

Bulb Planting by Moon Cycle:
Traditionally, the Waning Moon Cycle (which favours root development) is the most ‘ideal’ time to plant a wide assortment of bulbs, corms, roots and tubers. This is when Professional Bulb Growers often start them to promote bigger bulb size, multiplication and strongest root development. This results in a healthy, robust and vigorous plant. Waning Moon Cycle (12- 27 April).

When grown for larger flowers for the Florist Trade, a Waxing Moon cycle (promotes top-growth and flowering) is often considered to be the ‘ideal’ time for planting. But these larger flowers often come at the expense of the bulbs which may wither away after blooming. Bulbs are so forgiving that if planted correctly and properly cared-for, they will reward no matter what time of the month they are planted. This months’ Waxing Moon Cycle runs 1-11 April and 28-30 April onward.

Keep Planting!
Mid Autumn’s climate is particularly well-suited to root planting at almost any time of the month, but especially now during this Waning Moon Cycle. This way the bulbs have time to establish a strong root system before the onset of Winter. This root system then supports much more dramatic and vigorous Spring growth and flowering. Extreme weather events become more common now in temperate and cooler climates. This means that planting soil is liable to remain moist, encouraging some top growth but mostly root development. There is enough variety to keep Gardeners planting for a long time.

Bulbs, Corms and Roots to plant now included:
Achimenes (tropical gardens or warm glasshouse only), Allium, Amaryllis belladonna, Babiana, Calochortus (Mariposa Lily), Camassia, Chionodoxa (Glory of the Snow), Dipidax, Eranthis (Winter Aconite), Erythronium (Dog’s Tooth Violet), Eucharis Lily (warm climate or glasshouse), Freesia, Galanthus (Snow Drop), Gladioli nana, Haemanthus (Blood Flower), Hyacinth, Hyacinthoides (Spanish Hyacinths), Hypoxis (Star Grass), Ipheon (Spring Star) Iris (Bearded, Dutch, Ixia, Siberian and species), Leucojum (Snowflake), Lycoris (Spider Lily), Moraea, Muscari (Grape Hyacinth), Narcissus, Nerine (last chance), Notholirion, Ornithogalum (Chincherinchee and other species), Oxalis hybrids, Ranunculus, Scilla (Wood Hyacinth), Sparaxis, Tritonia, Tulip, Veltheimia, Zantedeschia and more locally.

Summer Bulbs:
Summer bulbs will begin to die-off, fade or wither now. Some like early-flowering Gladioli and Watsonia may have already disappeared and been dug. In climates with significant Winter freezing or very wet spells, the remainder should be dug up now as tops begin to yellow and wither in all but the driest and mildest climates. Start to dry-off and store most other tender tubers and bulbs like Gloxinia, Hippeastrum (Amaryllis), Tuberous Begonia, and Tuberose as they finish and begin to wither.

Also in colder climates that experience any significant freezing, dig Arum/Calla, Canna, Dahlia, Watsonia and all other tender bulbs, corms, roots and tubers. This is especially important anywhere that experiences prolonged cold and also wet wintry conditions, which can do as much damage as persistent freezing.

Once dug, store them in an airy, cool, dry and frost-free spot. Usually dark positions are best. They usually store best when immersed in dry peat, old (dry) potting soil, peat, perlite, sphagnum moss, untreated sawdust, vermiculite, etc. that remains rather dry. Avoid storing in damp soil which will surely result in rot. Periodically throughout the Winter, check their progress and be prepared to dust or spray them with Copper or Sulphur dust to prevent the spread of fungal infections or rot. Plan to repot and restart them in Late Winter/early Spring.

Lily bulbs of most varieties can also be dug and transplanted at this time. The best time is soon after their top growth dies away entirely. Lily bulb scales dry out quickly so they should be transplanted as soon as possible. If they are to be stored, maintain them in cool or refrigerated conditions in almost dry but slightly moistened peat or sphagnum. Many Lilies are damaged by severe ground freezing. If they might possibly freeze, plan to give them protective mulch once the ground is thoroughly cool but before it completely freezes. Lilies grown in pots should be moved to a drier and frost free position. Their bulbs can be repotted as soon as foliage dies down and throughout the cooler months: earlier is better so as to avoid the possibility of damaging emerging shoots as the season advances toward Spring.

More to Plant:
Also continue planting and sowing seed of many types of: hardy annual, biennial and perennial flowers and their seedlings, and advanced container-grown plants; all hardy herbs and winter/spring vegetables, especially those that produce their crops below the ground; include a wide variety of brambles and canes, groundcovers, fruiting and ornamental shrubs, trees and vines. Lists of many flowers and vegetables to plant now can be found in Weeks One and Four.

Shrubs, Trees and Vines:
Where ever the ground is moist and fertile, and the climate benevolent, now starts the time to shift and transplant many broad leafed evergreens, conifers and ornamental shrubs and trees. This includes many favourites like Camellia, Daphne, Pieris, Rhododendron; many types of Australian, Mediterranean and South African species, hedging and most groundcovers.

In (sub) tropical regions, Citrus and many evergreen fruiting species, plus cycads, Palms and most ornamental subtropical shrubs and trees can be planted from established containers. Many can also be shifted successfully from one position to another. Make sure they are securely tied or staked at the time of transplanting and remain well misted and watered until they stop wilting and become well established.

If conditions remain dry and warm or otherwise inclement for successful planting in your area, just wait a while until the climate becomes benevolent. Planting holes could be dug and lightly enriched now in anticipation of later planting once cooler and damper conditions return.

Vegetables:
Now through the remainder of the month favours the planting and sowing of all hardy root crops. Also sow or carefully transplant edible herbs and vegetables with extensive root systems and tap roots.

Peas:
In sheltered gardens experiencing mild Winter weather with little freezing, this is an excellent time to sow Peas. The same applies to Sweet Peas. They can also be transplanted very carefully from containers, but even a small amount of root damage or disturbance will set Peas back or permanently stunt them. Sowing from seed direct where the plants are meant to grow is by far the best method. Choose a sunny, well drained or raised bed out of strong winds and chilling drafts or severe frosts. Cultivate the land deeply as Peas form a deeply penetrating tap root and many fine feeding roots that spread out nearer the surface.

In frosty climates experiencing ground freezing, Peas and Sweet Peas can be established in a glasshouse or sunny shelter. Best results occur when they are seeded directly into the ground soil within the glasshouse or into an open raised bed where the roots are allowed to run. Under such conditions it is not unusual for them to climb up trellising or cords to the ceiling. Pinching out the central leader when the plants are 1ft/30cm tall or less will encourage lateral branching. This will somewhat shorten their upward growth and result in many more flowers.

Dolomite and especially Dolomag Lime is very beneficial to Peas as it slightly raises soil pH while adding extra Calcium and Magnesium to the soil which greatly enhances their growth and production. Peas also enjoy extra Phosphate be it either Rock Phosphate or Superphosphate and Potassium. These ingredients should be mixed into the soil prior to planting.

Avoid heavy Nitrogen applications! Peas are legumes that create their own Nitrogen from nodes on their roots. Excessive additional Nitrogen feeding can toxify them, resulting in sudden collapse. Also the roots of Peas can be easily overwhelmed by the application of all sorts of fertilizers, chemical and organic. They can be killed outright with the application of wood ashes around their base. Yet, while any number of soil additives can damage Peas while in active growth, adding abundant compost, fertilizers and Lime to the land prior to planting will greatly benefit their later development. Be sure to water these additives into the soil and allow the land to rest for at least a week before planting or sowing.

Peas and Sweet Peas also benefit from being seeded into fairly deep trenches that have been enriched prior to sowing or transplanting. Give the trench a thorough soaking before sowing the seed. Only lightly cover over the seed and leave the soil dug from the trench on the coldest and shadiest side all along the row. Once the Peas germinate, the trench and soil piled up next to it will shelter them and enhance their growth. As they start to advance upward, gradually back fill into the trench with the soil until the trench has been nearly filled 1-2inches/2.5-5cm from the top. This will insure that the Peas have a deep root system which will benefit them immensely once warmer weather returns. Leaving the trench partially unfilled will act as a channel that can be flooded with water during periods of dry weather that often come as the Peas are nearing harvest and the Sweet Pea flowers are reaching their peak. Going to this amount of trouble almost always assures a memorable harvest and brilliant display of deliciously fragrant Sweet Pea flowers come the Spring.

Also remember that young Pea shoots are a favourite Vegetable for Birds and are adored by Slugs and Snails plus a variety of Caterpillars. It is often worth covering the emerging young plants and check on their progress daily. Be prepared in advance as predation is often so quick that an entire young crop can disappear overnight!

Rhubarb:
Dig and divide Rhubarb crowns plus plant new ones. Replant with generous manure dug into a very moist, almost boggy spot with plenty of sunshine. Most edible species of Rhubarb originate from colder East European and Asian climates. In very mild climates a little afternoon shade is preferential or a spot exposed to cool winds that will provide the wintry cold they prefer. Rhubarb can tolerate significant extremes of cold and freezing without damage. But hot, humid tropical Summer weather can see them fail or become quite spindly.

When newly planted, the crown is sometimes planted on a slightly raised mound surrounded by a broad circular trough or a trough on either side of their planting row.

This ensures that their crowns do not drown or rot but their spreading and strong root system can draw up plenty of watering. Be sure that Rhubarb crowns are mulched to protect them against drying out. The mulch also helps cool their surrounding soil and will keep them from heaving out of the ground during severe freezing weather.

Flowers to Plant:
Many Biennial and Perennial flowers are planted now for (late) Winter, Spring to Summer and even Autumn flowering. Those transplanted as advanced plants from containers will quickly establish. This is by far the best option. A few like Helleborus may bloom during the Winter months and most will start sometime after the weather warms.

Biennials and Perennials started from seed now will usually produce small plants that will winter-over with some protection from wintry conditions. These will usually also flower later in the next growing season or the following year.

In mild climates experiencing only minor freezes or a few frosts or none at all, almost any Perennial which is traditionally planted in Spring can also be transplanted in Autumn. In very cold climates experiencing months of extreme freezing, all plantings should be mulched up, but not over their tops. Once the ground freezes, then cover the tops with mulch to protect against freeze/thaw damage. Leave this mulch in place until all danger of severe freezing has past in Spring.

Plant or Sow these Biennials Now:
Alcea rosea (Hollyhock), Anchusa azurea (Azure Forget-Me-Not), Cynoglossum and Myosotis (species of Forget-Me-Not), Angelica, Bellis perennis (hybrid English Daisy), Brompton Stock, Canterbury Bells, Caraway, Dianthus barbatus (Sweet William and most species), Digitalis (Foxglove), Echium (Viper’s Bugloss, dwarf and tall species), Hesperis (Dames Rocket), Lunaria (Honesty), Mullein, Oenothera (Evening Primrose), Pansy and Viola, Rudbeckia (Black/Brown-Eyed Susan), Vervain (Verbena), Wallflower among others.

Some of the species are actually perennials but tend to be short-lived so often are grown as biennial plantings that are started one year and flower the next. In very benevolent situations some of these plantings might reward with several years of bloom and many will reseed readily when given half a chance.

Perennials to Start Now:
Acanthus, Althea (Hollyhock), Alstroemaria, Chrysanthemum, Convallaria (Lily-of-the Valley), Dicentra (Bleeding Heart), Gazania, Gerbera, Geum, Helleborus (Winter Rose), Incarvillea (Pride of China), Meconopsis (Himalayan Blue Poppy), Mertensia (Virginia Blue Bell), Oriental Poppies, Polyanthus, Primula, Pulmonaria (Lungwort), Pyrethrum (Painted Daisy), Sedums and Succulents (most species/varieties), Tritoma/Kniphofia (Red Hot Poker), Trollis (Globe Flower) and many more locally. While perennial Phlox and Shasta Daisy can be successfully transplanted now, especially in larger clumps, these two perennials respond better to Late Winter/Early Spring transplanting.

Glasshouse:
Remove shading from the glasshouse to maximise late season sunlight. Start heating as night temperatures fall below 12 C/53.6 degrees; 15 C/59F degrees for tropicals. It should be emphasized that this is the minimum temperature that most tender plants will tolerate before they begin to enter dormancy. If the idea is to continue growing these plants onward throughout the Winter months, it is best to start heating before night temperatures drop this low. For fastest growth also start supplementing the reduced day-length with extra hours of artificial lighting. This will produce an environmental situation similar to what would be experienced in (sub) tropical latitudes which should result in continued flowering and growth. The only exceptions here are day-length sensitive plants like Poinsettia and Zygocactus; they need at least 12 hours of darkness or longer in order to produce quality flowering.

In the cool glasshouse, fernery and dormant subtropical house, extra heating is only necessary as night time temperatures approach freezing. The best approach here is to increase or maintain strong (sun) light intensity and slowly reduce watering. Watering is best done on bright and mild days combined with good air circulation and enough time for plants to dry off before nightfall. Plants growing in somewhat drier soil can handle lower temperatures better than those that are saturated which can chill and then rot.

Feeding continues for all Winter flowering species. Reduce feeding on Spring and Summer flowering species. These tend to enter dormancy now unless the idea is to keep them flowering all Winter. It is usually best to allowed them to slowly go dormant during the cool season ahead.

Houseplants:
All tender houseplants that have been spending a Summer holiday outdoors should be moved to their permanent Winter positions without delay. Before moving them indoors, they can be given a last big liquid feeding and full-spectrum systemic spray against disease and pests. Choose a bright, warm ‘Indian Summer’ day to feed them. Make sure that they are well-watered first and then apply either a liquid/foliar systemic fertilizer. Do not feed under bright, hot sunshine to avoid any chance of sun scald or chemical fertilizer salt burning. The same applies to chemical sprays to eliminate disease and pests.

A systemic soil drench and foliar spray against disease and pests is most important before bringing plants back indoors or into the glasshouse. This transitional time of change is stressful to the plants. While stressed, they quickly become vulnerable to attack. Glasshouse and indoor positions favour the development and rapid spread of diseases like downy and powdery mildew plus rotting and especially pests like Aphid, Mealy Bug, Mites, Scale, Thrip and White Fly. Once these pests become established indoors, they are extremely difficult to eradicate and can quickly consume entire plants and ruin or kill them. These will quickly spread inside to possibly create a major problem that might contaminate the entire growing space.

Spraying frequently with lukewarm water with a little liquid (dish/washing-up) soap added will help maintain adequate humidity and create a film over plant tissues that will help control or eliminate diseases and pests. Placing pots over saucers or trays filled with gravel or sand and kept moist will also help raise relative humidity which will help control many pests.

Reduce both the frequency and intensity of feeding and watering on houseplants and tender tropical species as temperatures start to fall. While they can be kept in active growth, their rate of growth should be reduced to balance the approaching wintry conditions. If forced to grow too quickly under these extremes, they may collapse or become soft and spindly which also invites disease and predation.

The exceptions here are plants grown in very bright and constantly warm conditions that are often found in many modern homes and office buildings. Here the conditions will closely resemble what the plants might have experienced outdoors during the milder summery months. Plants growing within these benevolent environments should be feed and watered on a light but regular schedule to maintain a constant level of growth.

Cymbidium Orchids should be moved to sheltered, sunny and warm Winter positions. Once again, this might be indoors in a sunroom or bright window, preferably a cool glasshouse or a sunny corner outdoors. Keep lightly but regularly moist. Start feeding Cymbidiums and all other Late Winter and Spring-flowering Orchids with a special Orchid flowering fertiliser rather than one for foliage. This will be higher in Phosphorous and Potassium than in Nitrogen. Buds will emerge fairly soon on the earliest flowering varieties. Guard against Slugs and Snails!!!

Keep Feeding:
Azalea, Camellia, Daphne, Luculia, Osmanthus. Pieris and Rhododendron with an acid plant food high in Phosphorous and Potassium to encourage the development of flower buds. Chaenomeles (Japanese Quince), Chimonanthus (Winter Sweet), Hamamelis (Witch Hazel) and most other Late Autumn, Winter and Early Spring flowering shrubs will also benefit from a final feeding and compost mulch now. When rains fail, provide a good soaking once a week to encourage healthy bud development. Always apply fertilizer over thoroughly wet soil.

Never Ending Maintenance:
Pruning: Cut back Late Summer and Autumn flowering shrubs as soon as they finish. This includes Cassia, Bougainvillea, Buddleia and Hydrangea. Also shape and trim conifers and hedges plus most ornamental foliage shrubs.

Do not prune back Late Autumn, Winter and Spring-flowering shrubs, trees and vines. Flower buds are forming and any pruning will remove these. If they have grown out-of-bounds, it will not damage the plants to cut them back, but some flowering will certainly be lost in the process.

Pruning at this time will control new growth. Pruning heavily next week and especially the following week until after the New Moon (27 April) may result in more die-back than expected. Bougainvillea is best given only a trim. If cut back hard, make sure there is enough growth remaining on each stump for the development of lateral shoots that carry the colourful bracts. In climates that could experience heavy frosts, it is best to trim only lightly now and do the heavier pruning in the Spring after all danger of frost has passed.

Clean and Tidy:
To maintain flowering displays and vegetable harvests, dead-head faded flowers. Cut back lightly any strong stems that have already produced good flowering and fruiting but appear now to be spent. Remove all old and tattered leaves plus anything showing signs of disease, predation or yellowing. This will often stimulate healthy plants to produce extra flowering, fruiting and new growth. Also feed all garden beds to keep plants producing longer. Foliar feeding which is absorbed directly into the plant tissues where it is most needed is extremely beneficial this late in the season.

Lawns:
Continue to sow and top dress lawns. This is an ideal time to reseed existing lawns and to establish new lawns while soil remains warm and weather conditions continue relatively settled but damper. Be sure to water regularly if Autumn rains fail. Once weather cools and dampens it is acceptable to cut lawns a little shorter than during the hotter months.
 


This Third Week in the Mid Autumn Garden 2017:

week one - week two - week three - week four

aprdir2012-01-230x153Easter week (Easter Sunday 16 April) is dominated by the Waning Moon Cycle strengthening into the Last Quarter Moon (19 April). The Moon continues to ascend (rise higher each evening) in Southern Hemisphere skies until the 19th. These conditions favour the planting of bulbs, corms, roots, tubers; all plants with tap roots or needing a period of root development and all hardy root crops. This will also be a great week for planting and transplanting groundcovers, shrubs, trees and vines plus Citrus and subtropical species in mild climates.

As the Moon ascends into Southern Hemisphere skies it is liable to push a flush of humid, warm air ahead of it bringing spring-like days. Starting 18-19 April the Moon begins to turn and descend northward through the remainder of the month. As it moves north, its gravitational pull is liable to begin to drag up colder air from Antarctic regions that will wash up against the tropical flow. This could result in cooler temperatures in traditionally colder regions plus temperature extremes and unsettled conditions reminiscent of what can be expected in the times ahead. Make the most of every fine day! While mild weather may prevail in warmer districts for some time yet to come, Late Autumn conditions will become obvious in the next few weeks with cooler and damper weather ahead.

A Busy Month in the Garden:
This is not the time to sit back and relax: it is a busy time in the garden! It is often a time to catch up with all the unfinished jobs started last month which need to be completed rather soon, especially in climates where the growing season is short. Mild to warm conditions gradually become cooler, a little wetter and weedier; almost Spring-like at times, creating ideal gardening conditions in almost all areas.

Changing colour tints and falling leaves begin to show in the Autumn foliage, especially as the month advances. Nature is reminding us to make the most of this lovely mild season while it lasts.

A Time for Root Development:
The Waning Moon Cycle stimulates strong root development that will help new plantings establish quickly, but may limit top growth.

This is a good time to sow seed of root crop vegetables, which often germinate rather quickly under these conditions. Also this is an ideal time to plant bulbs, corms, roots and tubers, especially Spring-flowering bulbs and any plant species with deep and spreading root systems or tap roots. Many newly planted brambles, canes; perennials; shrubs, trees and vines will appear to make little growth above the ground. But beneath the soil, their root systems will continue to advance in preparation of strong growth during the next growing cycle/season.

Vegetables that Benefit from Planting Now:
Vegetables to plant or sow include such favourites as: Beet, Carrot, Fennel, Leeks, Mustard, Onion, Parsnip, Peas, Potato, Radish, Shallot, Swede and Turnip. Also included here are things like Artichoke and Asparagus plus Rhubarb that depend on their extensive root systems to produce quality harvests. Many more tender varieties can be started within very sheltered and warm positions with frost-free winter weather or in the glasshouse.

Herbs, leafy Vegetables and all those that produce their crops above the ground can also be sown. If weather conditions appear favourable, they may also be transplanted without injury. But there will be better times ahead throughout the remainder of the month. When started now, they will tend to develop stronger root systems prior to putting on much extra top growth. This often proves to be helpful when Winter vegetables are subjected to cold and damp conditions where a strong root system helps promote and sustain healthy growth.

Leafy Vegetables to Sow or Transplant:
Broad Beans, Broccoli, Cabbages, most Chinese Greens (Bok Choy, Chinese Cabbages, etc.), Cress, Endive, Herbs, Lettuce (often best under glass or in raised beds), Mustard, Parsley, Peas, Silverbeet and Spinach plus anything else hardy.

Flowers to Start Now:
This week favours planting from established containers and sowing seed of plants with tap roots or anything needing a period of root development before major top growth begins. It is also an acceptable time to sow and transplant a wide range of annual, biennial and perennial flowers plus aromatic herbs for the Winter and Spring garden and also some things for the next Summer garden and beyond. This includes many things transplanted from containers, sown as fresh seed or already established from cuttings and root divisions.

Annual, Biennial and Perennial Flowers to Plant or Sow:
Alyssum, Aquilegia, Arctotis, Bellis Perennis (English Daisy), Candytuft, Cornflower, Canterbury Bells, Carnation, Coneflower, Delphinium, Dianthus, Feverfew (Tanacetum), Digitalis (Foxglove), Gaillardia, Godetia, Gypsophila, Hellebores (Winter Rose), Hollyhock (Althea), Honesty (Lunaria), Iceland Poppy, Larkspur, Limnanthes, Linaria, Livingstone Daisy, Lobelia, Lupin, Mignonette, Myosotis (Forget-Me-Not), Nemesia, Nemophila, Nigella, Painted Daisy, Pansy, Penstemon, Polyanthus, Poppies (most species), Primula, Scabiosa, Snapdragon, Statice, Stock, Sweet Pea, Viola, Virginia Stock, Wallflower and more locally.

Continue to transplant advanced container-grown seedlings of favourite garden flowers including:
Aquilegia (Granny Bonnets), Arctotis, Bellis perennis (English Daisy) , Canterbury Bells, Carnation, Cineraria, Cyclamen, Delphinium, Dianthus, Feverfew (Tanacetum), Forget-Me-Not (Myosotis), Foxglove (Digitalis) , Gaillardia (Indian Blanket), Hollyhock (Althaea), Iceland Poppy (most Poppy species), Larkspur, Limnanthes Sea Foam/Meadow Foam), Livingstone Daisy, Lupin, Nemesia, Snapdragon Antirrhinum) , Strawflower (Helichrysum), Stock (Matthiola) , Sweet Pea (Lathyrus), Wallflower (Erysimum) and much more.

In mild climates with minimal Winter frosts also include:
Ageratum, Calceolaria, Cineraria, Cosmos, Cyclamen, Gazania, Impatiens, French Marigold (most other species in frost-free climates), Schizanthus, Zinnia and much more, especially in frost-free positions. Wherever Winter weather remains (nearly) frost-free, dry and sunny, consider Petunias as an ideal bedding or container plant. Dahlias, especially bedding varieties, are also very good in positions that remain very sunny and perfectly drained plus completely frost free. Be aware that cold, wet weather will ruin their flowers. All these species can be successful grown in a bright and sunny glasshouse and sometimes in a much protected sun-facing veranda.

Because transplanting during the Full Waning Moon Cycle (19-26 April) can be stressful for anything tender, stick to advanced seedlings or container plants where minimum root damage or disturbance will occur. If climatic conditions appear doubtful or extreme, delay planting until the weather looks more benevolent or settled. Or put this off until after the New Moon (27 April) once the Waxing Moon Cycle returns.

In colder regions, protect all newly planted seedlings and young plants from frost/early freezing; also from predation by Slugs, Snails, Birds and Vermin. Almost all of these and many more species can be started from seed in the cold frame glasshouse, sheltered nursery or protected warm spots. In mild climates these could be planted out into the garden once they appear mature and strong enough to withstand an outdoor position or they can be held over in the cold frame or nursery for planting-out in Late Winter or Early Spring.

Very Easiest Flower Seed to Start Now
 
Amongst the wide variety of flowers that can still be sown from seed or advanced seedlings, the easiest to start include:
Alyssum, Aquilegia, Arctotis, Calendula, California Poppies, Candytuft, Canterbury Bells, Carnations and Dianthus, Hollyhock, Limnanthes, Linaria, Nasturtium, Nemophila, Nigella, Oriental and Shirley Poppies, Pansy, Snapdragon, Strawflower, Sweet William, Sweet Pea, Viola, Viscaria, Wallflower and many hardy Wildflower mixes just to mention a few favourites but there are scores more.

Care and Common Sense:
This is a transitional time of the year and ‘Moon planting’ is not nearly as fool-proof as is common sense. When in doubt whether you should plant or shift something, let seasonal variations be your guide. As soon as heavy dew begins to persist on the lawn and days remain noticeably cooler, start planting: most hardy flower and vegetable seedlings; container grown brambles and canes; shrubs, trees and vines; hardy groundcovers; lawns (both from seed and sod). Make sure to water-in all plantings thoroughly immediately after planting and again as needed to keep them from wilting. Also watch carefully that newly planted specimens remain regularly well watered, if autumnal rains fail to do the job for you. Be sure to securely stake everything that might whip about during wintry storms ahead as even small shrubs can be blown out of the ground in windy sites.

Ornamental Brambles and Canes, Shrubs, Trees, and Vines both deciduous and evergreen can be planted from containers. Be sure to water immediately upon planting to ensure that they get a good start and a prolonged period of root development. Generous mulch will maintain a more constant ground temperature and balanced moisture content. Stake anything tall and/or exposed to potentially extreme winds.

Because of the increasing celestial extremes this week and next, avoid wrenching and transplanting anything where significant root damage and trauma will occur. This can prove so destructive as to kill the plant unless expert after-care can be provided. Postpone this sort of procedure until after the New Moon (27 April) as conditions will moderate after that and into the month ahead.

Spring Flowering Bulbs:
This is a superb time to plant all Spring-flowering bulbs outdoors in garden beds where they are meant to flower in most climate zones. The exception is in the very warmest (sub) tropical zones where ground temperatures might still be well above 60F/15.6C. In those warmest climates, either maintain your bulbs in an airy, cool, dark, dry location or continue to refrigerate these bulbs a while longer until temperatures fall just a little more. Even hardier varieties like Anemone and Ranunculus often sprout more successfully when started once ground temperatures have dropped below 15C/59F.

The best natural test for when it is safe to start planting bulbs outdoors is wherever night air temperatures are dropping consistently below 12C/53.6F and/or the autumnal leaves are at least beginning to change colour, this is an ideal time to plant them.

Try at least a few special kinds of Spring-flowering bulbs in pots. The pots can either be placed in refrigeration or in a very cool, damp and shaded position outdoors, such as underneath the coolest shady side of an outbuilding, beneath shrubbery or a wall to simulate wintry conditions. Wherever freezing weather is severe, the pots can be watered-in thoroughly, buried in sand which is covered with mulch. Just leave them there at least until roots begin to appear outside the pot’s drainage holes and sprouts begin to show some movement. Then they can be brought into more light and moderately cool temperatures for flowering.

Crocus, Grape Hyacinth, Hyacinths and miniature Daffodils/Narcissus planted in pots and refrigerated now can be forced into flower by Mid Winter. Lovely pots of Tulips require at least 14 weeks of ‘chilling’ temperatures. Paper White Narcissus and other ‘warm’ weather Mediterranean species can be forced into bloom even sooner as they need no prior refrigeration. But most Spring-flowering bulbs do require a significant period of cold conditions that simulate Winter prior to flowering. This can be accomplished by placing the dry bulbs in open boxes or mesh bags in the refrigerator. Never allow them to freeze! Also they can be potted and placed in refrigeration which allows the development of a more substantial root system which produces better blooms.

Alternatively, pot the bulbs and then place these pots in a cool, dark, moist and shady place outdoors. Perhaps under shrubbery or on the shady side of a wall where they will remain very cool but never freeze. Once roots begin to show through the pots’ drainage holes, they can be brought into a bright but cool situation to grow on for early flowering.

In climates that experience Winter freezing pots of bulbs meant for early forcing are often buried in trenches covered over with sand or mulch. This way the bulbs can grow strong roots and shoots in a very natural environment. Then after the appropriate number of chilling weeks has past, the pots are unearthed and moved indoors for early flowering.

Crocus, Hyacinths and some Minor Bulbs (Anemone blanda, Chionodoxa, Galanthus, Muscari, Scilla, etc.) need as little as 8 to 10 weeks of cold before bringing into a bright, cool and sheltered spot for early flowering. Most Narcissus ‘Daffodils’, ‘Jonquils and hybrid Narcissus need 8 to 12 weeks or longer of cold and dark while Tulips can be successfully forced after 14 to 16 weeks or more. If these bulbs do not get the required length of cold they need, their buds may fail to develop properly (‘blasting’); may flower on very short stems; or flowers may be deformed, short and stumpy.

Because Spring-flowering bulbs are dormant, they can be planted at almost any time of the month and over many months, provided that appropriate environmental conditions can be met. But traditionally, the Waning Moon Cycle (reducing moonlight with Moon appearing in the early morning sky) is the most ‘ideal’ time to plant a wide assortment of bulbs, corms, roots and tubers. This is when Professional Growers often start them to promote bigger bulb size, multiplication and strongest root development. This results in a healthy, robust and vigorous plant. When grown for larger flowers rather than bulb quality and size, a Waxing Moon Cycle (increasing evening Moon light) is often considered to be the ‘ideal’ time for planting.

Mid and Late Autumn’s climate is particularly well-suited to this sort of bulb and root planting at almost any time of the month. This way the bulbs have time to establish a strong root system before the onset of Winter. This root system then supports much more dramatic and vigorous Spring growth and flowering. As Autumn advances, extreme weather events become more common in temperate and cooler climates. This means that planting soil is liable to remain moist, encouraging some growth and mostly root development.

Bulbs, Corms and Roots to plant now included:
Achimenes (tropical gardens or warm glasshouse only), Allium, Amaryllis belladonna, Calochortus (Mariposa Lily), Camassia, Chionodoxa (Glory of the Snow), Dipidax, Eranthis (Winter Aconite), Erythronium (Dog’s Tooth Violet), Eucharis Lily (warm climate or glasshouse), Freesia, Galanthus (Snow Drop), Haemanthus (Blood Flower), Hyacinth, Hypoxis (Star Grass), Iris (Bearded, Dutch, Siberian and species), Leucojum (Snowflake), Lycoris (Spider Lily), Moraea, Muscari (Grape Hyacinth), Narcissus, Nerine (last chance), Notholirion, Ornithogalum, Oxalis hybrids, Ranunculus, Scilla (Wood Hyacinth), Sparaxis, Tritonia, Tulip, Veltheimia, Zantedeschia and more locally.

Perennial Care:
Once perennials fade and finish flowering they can be cut back and mulched in preparation for Winter. Alternatively, most species can be cut back, dug, divided and replanted. This will allow them to become re-established before new growth resumes in the Spring. In cold climates with severe freezing this can wait until Spring. The main exceptions are perennial Phlox paniculata and Shasta Daisy that perform much better if divided in Late Winter of Early Spring.

In cold climates experiencing repeated ground freezing and thaw, be sure to surround each newly transplanted perennial with generous mulch. At this early stage, place a ring of mulch around each plant but leave its crown completely uncovered. After the first significant ground freeze sets in much later in the Autumn, then cover the plant and leave it that way until severe freezing finishes.

A Time to Clean and Tidy:
Remove fading displays. Anything diseased should be burned and the ashes recycled into the compost pile. If the plant material is healthy, it can be recycled into the compost heap. Alternatively, chop the faded plants into small sections and spread them as mulch around the garden. It is often really easy to chop them where they stand with hedge clippers a section at a time and let the pieces drop to be left where they lie. This creates green manure mulch that most closely returns to the land exactly what the plants removed from it to while they were growing.

The traditional approach is to clean, clear, cultivate and thoroughly weed all garden beds. The land should then be generously fed to replenish what has been removed with the growth of the previous crop. This might be with aged manure, mature compost and/or a good dusting with a high quality balanced General Plant Fertiliser. If the intention is to replant immediately for the Winter garden and Spring season, add extra Lime and drainage materials (sand, river gravel, small bark chips, etc.) into the top layer of the garden soil. This will help offset the effects of poorer drainage during extended periods of wet wintry weather.

Fruit Tree Care:
Continue to clean-up and tidy around all fruit trees, orchards and vineyards. Remove all decayed and spoilt fruit and mow/mulch fallen leaves. Wherever there has been disease or insect predation, make a special effort to eliminate all excessive debris that might harbour invasive problems that could spring to life early next season. Spray with a solution of powdered copper and spraying oil or a suitable (systemic) fungicide/insecticide to eliminate fungus and insect problems now rather than waiting until next Spring. But plan to spray again then, too! This is the best way to control difficult predative problems.

Brambles and cane fruits can also be cut back now or over the Winter months. This applies to Summer-fruited varieties. Remove all the canes that have finished fruiting but leave all this season’s new canes. These will produce next year’s crop. Autumn fruited varieties are cut back after all fruit has been harvested.

In cold climates experiencing severe freezing, their crowns should be mulch as an insurance against the possibility of wintry frost damage.

Houseplants:
Continue moving tender plants indoors or into the glasshouse before temperatures fall too severely. Most house plants and (sub) tropical species prefer temperatures to remain above 12C/53.6F or more to maintain plant health and steady growth.
Others prefer conditions to be cooler yet still frost-free. Potted Chrysanthemum, Cineraria, Cyclamen, Cymbidium Orchid, forced Hyacinths and Narcissus that are beginning to shoot, Kalanchoe, Primula obconica, Zygocactus, Zygopetalum Orchid and other ornamental container plants should be kept in an airy, bright if not quite sunny spot with warm days but cool nights. The cool evenings are essential to their long-term performance. They are all best suited to the cool glasshouse or unheated sun room and, of course, they perform brilliantly in mild and sunny subtropical climates with beautiful Autumn and Winter weather. Continue to feed and water them all regularly but lightly. Once conditions cool down, these plants metabolize and grow more slowly so need a little less feeding. Water lightly but regularly and remember that excessive watering can prove fatal, especially if plant roots remain wet on very cool nights.

Subtropicals:
Sub tropical species can still be planted successfully wherever ground remains moist and warm in sheltered microclimates that experience mild Winter weather with little significant freezing and/or only light frosts or none at all. Make sure the site is very free-draining and avoid much root disturbance at planting as the remaining growing season is short for tender species.

Weekly light liquid feeding combined with light watering will encourage quick and strong root development before the cooler weather arrives. Be sure to firmly stake any planting that might be lashed about by windy weather. Bougainvillea and other vines plus Palms are particularly vulnerable to root damage if their root ball twists about in the weeks after planting.

Avoid over-potting!
Because there is only a short time to develop new roots before growth is halted by cooler nights, be very careful to not over-pot tender (sub) tropical species or plant them into sites that might remain overly wet in Winter. Cold wet soil surrounding exposed tender roots is a recipe for root rot and plant collapse.

If in doubt, especially in border-line climatic zones, simply shelter the subtropical plant in its container in a very airy, bright, sunny and mild to warm environment where it can rest in a semi-dormant position until warm Spring conditions return in a few months. Subtropical species usually survive wintry conditions much more successfully if they remain somewhat pot-bound rather than surrounded by cold wet soil. Most subtropical species make little if any growth during the cooler Winter months and usually survive well when allowed to dry out a little between watering.

Of greatest importance is to maintain warm soil around their roots. This can be accomplished by ‘double’ potting one pot within another with the space between them filled with granulated bark, coconut fibre, peat, pumice, sand or soil. Some Gardeners wrap plant pots and sometimes nearly the entire plant in hessian to protect them like a winter coat. It also helps to cluster a number of pots together which retains more heat amongst the pots and helps protect against potential chilling drafts or freezing of the container soil.

A Kaleidoscope of Leaves:
The changing Autumn leaf display now showing here and there, especially in cooler climates, warns the wise to not delay with the completion of all that can be accomplished today! This is Nature’s way of providing a most colourful parting celebration in honour of the season now passing. But also a ‘red flag’ that signals that the mild season will soon end and to make the most of every remaining day to accomplish and prepare for less benevolent days.

Those wishing to plant a variety of species for autumnal colour tones should start making regular visits to selected local nurseries. See what is flowering now and watch as the various specimens which interest you begin to change leaf colour. This way you can select exactly the right tones for your special Autumn garden display.

Lawns:
This is an excellent time to start a new lawn. And it is also an excellent time to feed, seed and generally refurbish an existing lawn. If a really fine exhibition lawn is the plan, it is worth going to a bit of trouble to get the drainage perfect and the soil as loamy and rich as possible. A dusting of Gypsum will help improve poor drainage and help to loosen clay soil. Lightly forking over the lawn or going over it with an aerating spike roller will open up almost any soil. Existing lawns can be further improved with a thin layer of screened top soil well raked in to which blood and bone, lawn fertilizer and then seed is applied. Keep the entire area evenly moist especially if regular rains fail.

A mossy lawn can be improved with a dusting of Lime. This helps elevate soil pH. A soil pH of 6.5-7.2 is ideal. In very acid soils it is sometimes helpful to add a very fine layer of screened limestone rock into the soil surface or substitute Dolomite Lime. Mosses can also be controlled with dry or liquid applications of Iron Sulphate, Ferrous Ammonium Sulphate and Copper Sulphate. These ingredients are often used in weed and feed lawn applications. While sometimes effective, they may stain concrete or pathway surfaces as well as hands and clothing. They also do not address the issue of poor soil fertility which is usually at the root cause of excessive moss and weed problems.

Groundcovers:
Much like the lawn, this is an excellent time to start preparing ground and planting groundcovers. When grown as a permanent planting, make a good job of this so it will last for years. First till the soil thoroughly, removing all weeds. If possible let the cultivated earth rest and settle for a couple of weeks and then cultivate again to eliminate any emerging weed seedlings. In potentially very weedy ground, repeat this several times to ‘sterilize’ the ground of weeds before attempting to plant perennial groundcovers. Also feed generously before planting and add organic matter, especially compost to permanently enrich the soil. If soil is very heavy, whiten it with Gypsum Lime and water this in lightly before planting to help open the land for better drainage. Once planted, keep beds moist if weather remains dry until any signs of wilting have stopped. Watch carefully for the first year, just to be sure that the groundcovers have rooted deeply enough to sustain themselves over the long-term.

Autumn Flower Beds:
Autumn flower gardens will respond to continuous dead-heading combined with a light cut-back and trim as stems begin to fade or finish. A comprehensive foliage feeding and spray can do wonders to prolong or rejuvenate an Autumn floral display. There are several ways to do this. Organic Gardeners can apply soapy water mixed into Copper powder plus Epsom salts. A complete balanced systematic liquid foliar fertiliser is ideal for quick results. Add to this liquid fertiliser a good quality systemic fungicide/insecticide. Liquid feeding into the plants’ roots is also a successful approach to stimulate additional growth and flowering. This will both feed and protect the plants to enhance late flowering and prevent encroachment from disease and insect predation to provide the longest possible flowering and harvest season.

Keep garden beds clean and tidy removing fading plants, debris, and young weeds that have not yet seeded to the compost pile. Remain alert to stress-related problems and quickly remove and burn anything decayed, diseased, dying, half-eaten or rotting before it can affect and damage what remains. This also helps prevent problems from next year’s garden before they spread over the Winter ahead.
 


This Fourth Week in the Mid Autumn Garden 2017:

week one - week two - week three - week four

aprdir2012-03-230x153This week witnesses the Full Waning Moon Cycle, Dark of the Moon (23-26 April), the New Moon (27April) that represents a somewhat early arrival for Late Autumn and the beginning of the Waxing Moon Cycle. This New Moon occurs in (sidereal) Aries that represents ‘new beginnings’ and often brings mild or moderate weather. Lunar perigee (Moon’s closest approach for the month) occurs the day after this New Moon so gravitational/lunar forces will be strong and tidal extremes will increase starting around the 27th, with greatest intensity 28-29-30th.

The Waning Moon appears in the early morning sky rising before the Sun each day. Once the ‘Dark of the Moon’ arrives 23-26 April, the Moon will rise shortly before the Sun. As the two celestial bodies sweep across the daytime sky, they move closer together. This combines their power, heralding increasing celestial/gravitational forces. Consequently, liquid feeding and watering will be pulled upward mostly strongly with the rising sun and into the early afternoon hours. This will result in good rates of top growth, flowering and fruiting. Afternoon and evening watering will be pulled downward so will refresh a dry garden by the following morning.

Bright Venus will arise shortly after the Waning Crescent Moon 24 April making a pretty picture in the early morning twilight near the eastern horizon. Venus reaches its greatest brilliance for the year a few days later when it rises shortly before the New Moon and Sun.

How to Use the Dark of the Moon to Best Advantage:
This week witnesses the ‘Dark of the Moon’ phase (23-26 April) leading up to the Late Autumn New Moon (27 April). This is the lunar beginning of Late Autumn conditions. This is usually a time when warm weather plantings fade, wither or finish and cool season species become more prevalent and spring to life amongst the early autumnal tints to deciduous foliage. Water retention reaches its lowest by the New Moon so this is a time to dry, gather and store fruits, grains, herbs, seeds and vegetables for long-term keeping.

This is an excellent time to clean and tidy the garden. Cultivate; open new ground; weed and fertilize or spread compost and aged manure now; and feed all manner of Autumn, Winter and Spring flowering perennials, shrubs and trees to stimulate bud growth and strengthen them. Because stronger gravitational forces tend to ‘anchor’ things into the earth, now is an excellent time to lay foundations, brick work and paving; create rock gardens; pour concrete; dig ponds and pools; set fence posts and build all manner of things for the garden and home.

Organize tools and sharpen. Cut and stack wood for Winter. It the ‘best’ time to eliminate brush, scrub and other unwanted vegetation. Heavy pruning now can be used to keep plants cut back for longer, but can also be used in combination with herbicides or a mixture of kerosene and salt to kill noxious vegetation. Clip and lightly prune to keep conifers, hedges, shrubbery and trees shapely for longer. Mow lawns to keep them short for longer and start preparations for new lawns and repairing established lawns, adding fertilizer, Gypsum to improve drainage and lawn seed; spray to eliminate disease and pests but be cautious to avoid chemical burn to tender tissues.

‘Dark’ Pruning Secrets:
Pruning anytime during the Waning Moon cycle will tend to limit new growth. This is most pronounced during the “Dark of the Moon’ phase (23-26 April) including the time around the New Moon (27April). Anything pruned then often will stay pruned for much longer and can sometimes result in more die-back than expected and can even kill the entire plant!

Deciduous species whose growth has fully matured and/or that are now losing their leaves in preparation for Winter are particularly vulnerable to damage when pruned severely at this time. Sap is being drawn back from the plant tops into the root system in preparation for Winter. Any open wound or cut that is left unsealed invites air to enter the capillaries. As the sap is drawn back down out of the branches and into the roots, air is also drawn in resulting in extra die-back. This can be a silent killer. The true extent of any damage is usually not revealed until the following Spring.

One way around this problem is to not prune too closely; always leaving a little extra stump. This way if further die-back were too occur than was intended, there is still a ‘margin of error’ to protect internal growth that was not meant to be pruned away. Be sure and cover all pruning wounds with a protective sealant such as tree paint! Also be aware that pruning any species that flowers in Late Autumn, Winter or Early Spring will remove at least some of the developing flower buds which will limit the next display. This will not damage the plants’ ability to re-grow; just its next flowering display.

This autumnal ‘Dark of the Moon’ die-back phenomenon can be used to great advantage when attempting to eliminate many types of brush and scrub or other noxious vegetation. By severely cutting back the plant and then covering the cut with kerosene and salt (an old Pioneer method) or an appropriate herbicide, the plant can often be eliminated entirely.

Time to Clear Land:
Mid and Late Autumn are excellent times to clear land, cut down, and remove from the land, brambles, brush, scrub, invasive or unwanted shrubs, trees, vines and a variety of noxious weeds. Plan ahead for next month!

The cut back on larger sections could start now. Clear things back to a reasonable stump level now. In about a week’s time, cut back much harder at the time when herbicide or kerosene plus salt will be added over each fresh cut.

The very best times to kill unwanted vegetation are those days in the ‘Dark of the Moon’ Cycle in the last week of the Waning Moon Cycle (23-26 April) before the Late Autumn New Moon (27 April). This is when lunar and gravitational forces reach their greatest and plant sap is most dramatically moving.

Being late in the season plant sap, especially in deciduous and Winter-dormant species is returning into the root system in preparation for the Winter season ahead. Cutting those plants back starting now will tend to draw air into the open cuts and pull it down into the stems; causing greater die-back. Cutting again in a week’s time will enhance this die-back. To further encourage the die-back, cover fresh cuts in (damp) salt and immediately pour a small amount of kerosene, mineral turpentine or herbicide over the salt. This will create a toxic mixture that will also be drawn into the cut. Much of the world’s vegetation was permanently cleared by earlier generations of Pioneers using this simple secret.

Bulbs, Corms and Roots to plant now included:
Achimenes (tropical gardens or warm glasshouse only), Allium, Amaryllis belladonna, Calochortus (Mariposa Lily), Camassia, Chionodoxa (Glory of the Snow), Dipidax, Eranthis (Winter Aconite), Erythronium (Dog’s Tooth Violet), Eucharis Lily (warm climate or glasshouse), Freesia, Galanthus (Snow Drop), Haemanthus (Blood Flower), Hyacinth, Hypoxis (Star Grass), Iris (Bearded, Dutch, Siberian and species), Leucojum (Snowflake), Lycoris (Spider Lily), Moraea, Muscari (Grape Hyacinth), Narcissus, Nerine (last chance), Notholirion, Ornithogalum, Oxalis hybrids, Ranunculus, Scilla (Wood Hyacinth), Sparaxis, Tritonia, Tulip, Veltheimia, Zantedeschia and more locally.

Exercise a little more care when planting or transplanting anything delicate or tender during the ‘Dark of the Moon’ phase. Bulbs or anything dormant are easily planted or shifted. But celestial extremes at this time can dry-out new plantings of seedlings that are tender rather quickly if weather remains at all dry, sunny and/or windy. Under such conditions they can collapse quickly. Prepare to provide extra watering if regular rains fail. But conditions are often so ideal at this time of year that most anything that is well-planted and cared-for will meet with success.

Big Planting Time Begins!
The New Moon marking the lunar beginning of Late Autumn arrives 27 April. Crescent Moon seen in the evening sky means the Mid Autumn Moon is ‘waxing’ or growing brighter and larger each evening. This time of increasing moonlight encourages top-growth so is a very good time to plant and sow flowering plants and vegetable crops (especially leafy sorts) that produce their crops above the ground. This Waxing Moon Cycle grows in intensity until the Full ‘Harvest’ Moon 11 May.

Vegetables:
Leafy Vegetables and all those that produce their crops above the ground can be planted and sown. If weather conditions appear favourable, their seedlings may also be transplanted without injury. What can be planted depends upon the climate. In coldest climates only the very hardiest things would be planted outdoors. But much could be started in a cold frame. In the mildest climates a broad list of vegetables can be easily started outdoors now. The last of the warm weather vegetables could be started in a glasshouse in all climate zones.

Leafy Vegetables to sow or transplant include:
Broad Beans, Broccoli, Cabbages, most Chinese Greens (Bok Choy, Chinese Cabbages, etc.), Cress, Endive, Fennel and hardy Herbs, Lettuce (often best under glass or in raised beds), Mustard, Parsley, Peas, Rhubarb, Silverbeet, Spinach and more locally. Root crops vegetable seed and plants with tap roots usually perform best when sown near the Full Moon (11 May) and afterward during the Waning Moon Cycle.

Flowers:
This transitional autumnal time is excellent for planting and sowing a broad range of Annual, Biennial and Perennial flowering plants. For ‘instant’ colour, plant advanced seedlings or colour pots already in bloom or bud. Most of these will continue flowering throughout the Autumn and Winter months into next Spring.

Smaller seedlings are cheaper and should transplant easily now. Depending on what is transplanted, these often take 4 weeks or longer before they produce their first flowers.

Seed sown now offers the broadest options. It is remarkably cheaper. A single packet of seeds can sometimes produce hundreds of plants for little more than the cost of a few ‘instant’ colour pots. Often a single container-grown perennial will cost more than a packet of their seeds that can potentially produce a hundred or more perennials that could flower for years. It is by far the best way wherever larger flower beds are desired over a big acreage. Seed also provides the greatest diversity of colour and form. Plus many of the more desirable and unusual species are almost never offered as colour pots or seedlings by most nurseries. In order to have these in your garden you must grow them yourself. The trade-off is that seed sowing takes dedicated effort, organization and reliability to produce a quality result. Plus sowing from seed takes much longer to flower: often 10 weeks or more.

Easiest Flowers to Sow from Seed:
Amongst the wide variety of flowers that can still be sown from seed or advanced seedlings, the easiest to start include: Alyssum, Aquilegia, Arctotis, Calendula, Candytuft, Canterbury Bells, Carnations and Dianthus, Poppies Pansy, Snapdragon, Sweet William, Sweet Pea, Wallflower and many hardy Wildflower mixes just to mention a few favourites but there are scores more.

Annual, Biennial and Perennial Flowers

In addition to the most easily sown varieties are many more garden favourites including:
Ageratum, Althea (Hollyhock), Ammi majus (Bishops Flower), Bellis Perennis (English Daisy), Calceolaria, Calliopsis, Chrysanthemum, Clarkia, Cornflower, Coneflower, Cosmos, Delphinium, Echinacea (Purple Cone Flower), Feverfew (Tanacetum), Digitalis (Foxglove), Gaillardia, Gloxinia, Godetia, Gypsophila, Hellebore (Winter Rose), Hollyhock (Althea), Honesty (Lunaria), Hunnemania, Iceland Poppy, Larkspur, Limnanthes (Sea Foam), Linaria, Livingstone Daisy, Lobelia, Lupin, Mignonette, Myosotis (Forget-Me-Not), Nemesia, Nemophila, Nigella, Painted Daisy, Penstemon, Phacelia, Phlox, Polyanthus, Poppies (most species), Primula, Rudbeckia, Salpiglossis, Scabiosa, Statice, Strawflower, Stock, Sweet Pea hybrids, Viola, Virginia Stock, Viscaria, Wallflower and more locally.

Sometimes these plants are available as advanced container-grown seedlings or colour pots. This is an ideal time to transplant them into their permanent garden positions or pot them on for Winter colour in the conservatory, glasshouse or sunroom.

In mild climates with minimal Winter frosts and in the glasshouse try:
Ageratum, Begonias (fibrous rooted), Calceolaria, Cineraria, Cosmos, Cyclamen, Gazania, Impatiens, French Marigold (most other species in frost-free climates), Pelargonium (Geranium), Schizanthus, Zinnia and much more, especially in frost-free positions. Wherever Winter weather remains nearly frost-free; dry and sunny, consider Petunias as an ideal bedding or container plant. Be aware that cold, wet weather will ruin their flowers. All these species can be successful grown in a bright and sunny glasshouse and sometimes in a very protected sun-facing veranda.

Perennials to start now include:
Acanthus, Althea (Hollyhock), Alstroemaria, Chrysanthemum, Convallaria (Lily-of-the Valley), Dicentra (Bleeding Heart), Gazania, Gerbera, Geum, Helleborus (Winter Rose), Incarvillea (Pride of China), Meconopsis (Himalayan Blue Poppy), Mertensia (Virginia Blue Bell), Oriental Poppies, Polyanthus, Primula, Pulmonaria (Lungwort), Pyrethrum (Painted Daisy), Sedums and Succulents (most species/varieties), Tritoma/Kniphofia (Red Hot Poker), Trollis (Globe Flower) and many more locally. While perennial Phlox and Shasta Daisy can be successfully transplanted now, especially in larger clumps, these two perennials respond better to Late Winter/Early Spring transplanting.

Groundcovers, Shrubs, Trees, Vines:
Wherever soil is moist and workable and regular watering can be assured if rains were to fail, now is the time to start planting from containers a very wide range of shrubs, trees, vines and most types of hardy groundcovers. In milder climates where ground freezing is not an issue, this planting can continue all Autumn and Winter plus well into the Spring. In colder climates, it is important to get started before cold and freezing weather ends the growing season.

Because these are most likely long-term/permanent plantings, go to extra trouble to prepare the soil well before planting. Dig broad holes and make sure they are deep enough to encourage roots to penetrate down into the soil. Add well aged compost to the planting hole and mix this into the surrounding soil. Lighten clay and heavy soils by adding powdered Gypsum. Round river sand and/or peat can also be added to improve the soil’s tilth.

It is generally best to not add chemical fertilizers into the planting hole at the time of planting. At the most perhaps one handful into a planting hole one metre in diameter. Dig this into the surrounding soil. Alternatively, add a little more fertilizer but water it in thoroughly and let the hole stand empty for at last a week before planting. The reason for this is to avoid the possibility of caustic chemical fertilizers coming into contact with emerging tender plant roots. This could burn them and set the plant back or even kill it!

Sasanqua Camellias first begin to flower as true Autumn weather arrives. There are a few varieties that start flowering quite early; others continue into Late Winter and Early Spring. Now is a great time to visit your local nursery just as they begin to bloom to select the perfect variety with just the right floral colour and shape for your needs. Sasanquas are extremely easy to plant and establish even while in flower and are hardy in climates that experience only moderate freezing or less. They perform best with plenty of sunshine but will tolerate partial shading. In borderline climates that experience persistent light freezing they are best planted near protective walls or sheltering foundations. Sasanqua Camellia flowers bloom en masse and carry a distinctive and pleasant honey fragrance that makes them a valuable asset for the Autumn and Winter garden.

It is possible to successfully plant most all other species of Camellia, Daphne, Luculia, Osmanthus, and Rhododendron as well as Azaleas and a wide variety of other containerized shrubs, trees and vines, most species native to Australia, the Mediterranean, New Zealand, South Africa and western North America. Both broad leafed evergreen and deciduous species can be started from container-grown stock.

Deciduous species that are meant to be wrenched and transplanted can be partially lifted by first digging straight down using a sharp-edged shovel all around the plants’ circumference. This will establish the plants’ root ball. Over the coming weeks, fertilize and water within the circumference of the root ball to encourage new root development. Once the plant has lost all its foliage, it can be lifted and shifted into its new position.

Bulbs:
Dormant bulbs can be planted and transplanted all month. When planted during the Waxing Moon Cycle, this is traditionally considered to encourage larger blooms but at the expense of future bulb production. Now would be a good time to start flats of bulbs that are meant to be forced for Florist Trade flowers. Pots for forced Winter flowers could also be started now. If the intension is to create a sweeping bank or meadow of Spring Daffodils that will naturalize and spread in successive years, wait to plant until the Full Moon onward into the Waning Moon Cycle.

For more information of forcing and growing Spring-flowering bulbs see the First Week in the Mid Autumn Garden.

Houseplants and Subtropical Species:
Cymbidium Orchids and all other frost-tender (sub) tropical species need be moved into protected, sunny, warm spots without delay. All cool-season flower species should now be fertilized with a formula high in Phosphorous and Potassium to stimulate the development of flower buds. Make sure that any plant that has been outdoors for the Summer is examined and comprehensively sprayed to eliminate any threat of disease or insect predation entering the sheltered indoor environment.

Before bringing them inside, it is often a good idea to choose a warm, still and sunny day and give them a vigorous hosing outdoors just prior to applying a systemic spray combined with a liquid fertilizer. Let the plants dry out. Then bring them indoors into their new winter home.

Make sure that all such plants are placed in a bright, sheltered and mild to warm environment out of any chilling drafts. Watch them very carefully in the weeks ahead for any sign of disease or predation. Spray again immediately at the first sign of any such threat. It is often handy to leave a spray bottle near the plants to deal with any problem immediately. Because the plants are vulnerable when their environment is changed, their weakened state can allow any problem to spread quickly to affect the rest. This can prove disastrous if not stopped very quickly!

Lawns:
Wherever conditions remain mild and Winter climates are moderate with only light frosts or occasional minor freezes, continue to sow seed for new lawns and to refurbish existing lawns. A special lawn food is best for feeding. But many Gardeners elect to use Sulphate of Ammonia which will burn off broad-leaf weeds as it feeds the lawn! Don’t use anything this caustic on tender young grasses.

Wherever possible avoid the use of herbicides on the lawn. While they may eliminate broad-leafed weeds at first, they also mildly toxify the earth. Many also have a residual potential. Chemical concentrations can soon build up to make the ground more difficult to plant or sow successfully. This toxicity can kill soil bacteria and worm-life that will eventually result in compacted and sour soil. With repeated rainfall, this toxicity can leach through or run-off into garden beds or enter the aquifer and contaminate water supplies. Be aware that all herbicides carry warning labels detailing their toxic potential. Such toxins remaining on the lawn can also transfer onto children and their toys, the Gardeners’ shoes or beloved pets and ultimately cause toxic reactions in them as well.

As a general rule, whenever possible, remain biodynamic and/or organic. Over time this results in a much healthier environment with better results for the garden, lawn and yourself.

The times just ahead usher in the final month of Autumn. This will also be the last opportunity to get everything done before the onset of Winter. Those unaccustomed to making lists and experiencing the delight of crossing off completed jobs might consider taking up the practice now and following through while there is still time.

 

About us

dale-john 01-100x66 Dale Harvey and John Newton met in Melbourne Australia in 1981. Since then they both have supported each others careers while also building and maintaining their own. Read about how they were able to turn their joint careers into one and creating a dream of a better world starting in their own local community.

Media & Publications

host daffodils-100x66The following articles are a small part of the many published editorials on or about both Dale Harvey and John Newton plus the property affectionately nick named by the people of New Zealand, as the
"Quarter Acre” Paradise gardens.

Awards & Credits

HOPE Trust-100x66This is a collection of Appreciation Certificates, Local and Overseas Awards with Acknowledgments presented to Dale Harvey and John Newton over the many years of their joint careers plus the Launch and Registration
of The H.O.P.E. Trust
The Healing of Planet Earth.

Contact Us

P.O.Box Papatoetoe Central
2156 Auckland
New Zealand
Tel: +61 9 276 4827
Fax: +61 9 276 4025
Email: info@daleharvey.com 
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